Madagascar Cyclone: “Getting ready to respond’
John Uniack Davis, Country Director CARE Madagascar
February 15, 2012
|Impact of previous cyclones in Madagascar, such as wind damage. Picture taken by by Katia Rakotobeâ Location : Mananara (North East)|
"On Wednesday morning, CARE sent a helicopter to the areas affected by cyclone Giovanna to assess the damage. The storm made landfall on Tuesday, February 14, on the east coast of the country and it brought heavy winds and rains. Our staff have been preparing for this as we could monitor the storm coming close. Luckily, when Giovanna made landfall, it lost some speed and was therefore not quite as strong as the Category 4 storm that had been predicted. But still, it left a path of destruction through several districts. Two districts in particular, with a total population of over 400,000 were particularly hard hit. What was really unusual was that after hitting the coast and traveling inland, the cyclone passed directly over the capital city, so I and the rest of our staff had to stay home until late Tuesday morning. There were extremely strong winds. Giant billboards were blown down and debris was flying around. I am glad that all of my colleagues are safe and accounted for. Here in "Tana", as we call the capital, there has been quite some destruction and people were not really prepared for the storm.
Tomorrow we will have a better picture of the devastation when we evaluate the data from our aerial assessment. CARE staff from our sub-office in Vatomandry report that at least 60 percent of dwellings in the town have been partially damaged or completely destroyed. Houses in these poor areas are often built of bamboo and palm leaves, so it is easy for a strong wind to rip them apart. Many families have experienced these storms before, so they usually repair their houses quickly. But especially elder people or households headed by women need our help now to provide them with construction materials. There are sixteen reported deaths so far, but I expect the numbers to rise. Many areas are still cut off and have not been reached yet.
CARE had plastic sheeting prepositioned in our warehouse that we can distribute to 6,000 households or 30,000 people as a first emergency response. Once we have clearly assessed the needs and locations, we will begin with the distribution. People will probably also need food assistance, as their stocks might be lost in the damage. And as roads are destroyed, we need to rebuild them quickly to get access to affected villages. CARE is one of the most established emergency actors in Madagascar, we have provided emergency relief to cyclones in the past years, such as Bingiza and Hubert. I hope that this time again we will get the necessary support and funding to act quickly and reach those who need our help now."