14 February 2012

Madagascar: Nation Watches As Storm Crosses Madagascar

Photo: University of Madison-Wisconsin
Cyclone Giovanna is represented on this weather map by the whirling cloud over Madagascar at left.

Maputo — Cyclone Giovanna, as of Tuesday morning, was over central Madagascar, and heading in a south-westerly direction towards the Mozambique Channel, according to the National Meteorology Institute (INAM).

As it hit Madagascar, Giovanna was described as a category four cyclone, with sustained winds of over 170 kilometres an hour. It killed at least one person on Madagascar's eastern seaboard, caused power blackouts, and forced schools and offices in the port city of Tamatave to close.

Offices were also closed in the capital, Antananarivo, which is almost directly in the path of the cyclone, and the authorities ordered motorists to stay off the roads.

INAM meteorologist Caldina Tcheco told reporters that within the next 49 hours the cyclone will be affecting the weather in the southern Mozambican provinces of Gaza and Inhambane, and the central province of Sofala, bringing showers and strong winds.

Tcheco said INAM is watching the cyclone closely. Over land, cyclones slow down, so Giovanna is expected to lose some of its power as it crosses Madagascar. But when it hits the warm waters of the Mozambique Channel (where the temperature is currently between 27 and 30 degrees centigrade), it will intensify again.

The projection of Giovanna's likely route, made by the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, indicates that it will make land fall on the Inhambane coast on Saturday.

This is the third major storm system to hit Mozambique so far this year. On 18-19 January tropical depression Dando wreaked considerable damage in the south of the country, leading to serious flooding in the Incomati Valley in Maputo province, which briefly interrupted traffic on the country's main north-south highway.

Shortly afterwards, cyclone Funso hit central Mozambique, causing severe damage in Zambezia province, and particularly its provincial capital, Quelimane.

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