- The country’s president Andry Rajoelina, who toured the country on Friday, called it a “day of devastation.”
- The Prime Minister, Christian Ntasy, declared the situation a “national disaster.”
- Madagascar has one of the highest poverty rates in the world and is considered one of the countries most impacted by climate change.
At least 31 people have been killed by floods and landslides after a week of heavy rains in the north-west side of Madagascar. According to the country’s National Disaster Management office, twenty people are missing on the popular tourist island as flooding intensified in the Districts of Mitsinjo and Maevatanana.
Eighteen of those missing are said to have been carried away when trying to cross a river to return to their village, Mitsinjo, in the northwest. The military was deployed in affected areas to help evacuate people at risk from the rising waters. The country’s president Andry Rajoelina, who toured the country on Friday, called it a “day of devastation” across the island. Rajoelina said that people were being rescued by boats and helicopters and there are “thousands of victims who are still in desperate need of help and relief in the area.”
“The government is calling on national figures and international partners to help the Malagasy people with emergency aid, early recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction,” spokeswoman Lalatiana Andriatongarivo said in a statement. The bad weather has affected nearly 107,000 people with more than 16,000 displaced. The Prime Minister, Christian Ntasy, declared the situation a “national disaster.”
The National Bureau Risk Management (BNGRC) has warned that flooding in lowland and rice-growing areas also pose a risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. “We can’t give numbers yet but crops are almost completely inundated,” said Elack Olivier Andriakaja, who works with BNGRC. Rice production in the region in considered Madagascar’s breadbasket. A disruption in the supply of basic goods could also lead to a rise in prices.
Access to affected areas has been cut off since strips of road were swept away by the rains. This has left some villages isolated. Torrential rains have made important roads impassable, while a dam near the town of Tanambe burst, flooding the sorrounding villages and farmlands.
The tropical nation in the Indian Ocean is in the midst of an intense six-month rainy season that often results in widespread damages and casualties. The rainy season stretches from October to April in the former French colony off Africa’s southeastern coast. Madagascar has a population of about 25 million people, according to the World Bank.
It has one of the highest poverty rates in the world and is considered one of the countries most impacted by climate change. The country experiences an average of three cyclones per year. Most recently, Tropical Cyclone Belna made a landfall in December.
Global warming has increased the risk and intensity of flooding, as the atmosphere holds more water and rainfall patterns are disrupted. Parts of Africa have experienced heavy rain in the recent months because the Indian Ocean is warmer than usual. This is partly as a result of a cyclical weather phenomenon, and partly because oceans are warming everywhere.
Floods, landslides and cyclones killed more than 1,200 people across East and Southern Africa last year, according to a Save the Children count, based on UN and government figures. Flooding also displaced nearly half a million people in Southern Sudan, 200,000 in Ethiopia, and at least 370,000 people in Somalia last year, the United Nations reported.