Cyclone Batsirai crosses the Indian Ocean towards Madagascar

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — The full force of Cyclone Batsirai is expected to hit Madagascar on Saturday night, weather officials say.

The cyclone is gaining strength as it crosses the Indian Ocean, with strong winds reaching highs of 235 kilometers (145 miles) per hour, according to the island’s meteorology department.

“Following its slow and quite variable movement, the expected arrival of the eye is delayed until (Saturday) evening or overnight,” said the weather service in a press release.

Batsirai, which means help in the Shona language, is expected to inflict “significant and widespread damage, particularly flooding in the east, southeast and central highlands,” the statement said.

As a precaution, 22,000 people have already been evacuated to gymnasiums, schools or churches, particularly around Mananjary, on the east coast.

“The wind is getting stronger and it is raining a lot. The sea is very rough. There are big waves that are falling with a lot of force,” Captain Ravahalahy Heninjoa, commander of the Mananjary gendarmerie, said on Saturday. “You can already feel the cyclone even if the eye has not yet touched the ground.” .

Winds toppled many trees and power has been out since Friday evening, he said.

Further inland, Antananarivo, the capital, experienced rains before the cyclone.

Anticipating widespread destruction, most land and sea transport has been suspended in Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island.

“Almost all parts of the island are at risk,” the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management said, warning that the cyclone threatens nearly 600,000 of the island’s 28 million people.

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