Cyclone Ivan leaves 22 dead and communication networks damaged

© UNICEF Madagascar/2008/Rajaonisaona
A Malagasy family walks in search of shelter from Cyclone Ivan.

TOAMASINA, Madagascar, 21 February 2008 – On the heels of a major storm that hit Madagascar just last month, this island nation was devastated once again earlier this week, when Cyclone Ivan touched down near Toamasina on its north-eastern coast.

According to the Office of National Risk Management and Disaster, Cyclone Ivan struck six regions of Madagascar in all, leaving 22 dead and thousands of others homeless or in need of aid. The cyclone’s violent winds of up to 190 km per hour, and heavy rainfall, have dealt a severe blow to communication networks here as well.

Even as the devastating winds of Cyclone Ivan battered Ambodiatafana village, inhabitants worked desperately to protect themselves and their property against the destruction that was happening before their very eyes.

“It was incredible,” recalled village resident Marie Claire Ravelonanosy. “The winds took away our house and we were unable to save our property. Fortunately, there were no casualties.”

© UNICEF Madagascar/2008/Rajaonisaona
In spite of downed communication networks and the loss of electricity, UNICEF was on site within hours, assisting families displaced by Cyclone Ivan in Madagascar.

Link to the north destroyed

Thirty km north of Toamasina, the capital of the Atsinanana region, the Antaratasy bridge is in ruins – yet another victim of Cyclone Ivan.

The bridge was an important link on the route to the far northern cities of Madagascar. Its destruction, coupled with the extensive damage to communications, has made it impossible to contact many who may have been affected by the storm.

“There's my wife and children, who are at this moment on the other side of the bridge,” said businessman Jean Pierre Rafenomanana. “What am I going to do? I have no news of them.”

Immediate disaster response

In the city of Toamasina itself, water and electricity have been cut off since the cyclone hit. Winds knocked down trees and power lines, and rising waters were also a worry. As news of the first confirmed casualties began to spread, aid agencies, local authorities and non-governmental organizations quickly mobilized to provide aid.

Within hours, UNICEF was sending blankets, sanitation kits and other supplies to families in affected areas. UNICEF has also continued helping the authorities to assess the full extent of cyclone damage.

This cyclone comes less than a month after Cyclone Fame, which struck the country in late January, killing 12 and leaving 5,000 homeless. Two other cyclones caused widespread destruction in March and April 2007.





20 February 2008:
UNICEF’s Melissa Leschuck reports on cyclone devastation in Madagascar.
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