Madagascar has put six of its regions on high alert as tropical Cyclone Batsirai is forecast to hit the Indian Ocean island’s east coast Saturday with intense winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles) per hour, according to the Department of Meteorology.
Residents across the island are stocking up on groceries and securing their homes as much as possible before the storm lands.
About 4.4 million of Madagascar’s 28 million people are at risk, with nearly 600,000 expected to be directly affected and more than 150,000 likely to be displaced, according to officials. Government and Red Cross teams are preparing for emergencies.
“We are concerned by the size and projected impact of this intense cyclone. Our immediate response activities will focus on saving lives, and they will include search and rescue operations,” Andoniaina Ratsimamanga, secretary-general of the Madagascar Red Cross said.
Red Cross teams are also working with the government to set up safe accommodations for people displaced by the storm, he said.
Batsirai (which means help in the Shona language) has already blown by the islands of Mauritius and Reunion, killing at least person in Mauritius and causing widespread power cuts. It has picked up speed and is expected to move from east to west across the center of Madagascar.
The new cyclone comes just weeks after Madagascar was badly affected by Cyclone Ana and other heavy rains which caused 55 deaths and made 131,000 people homeless. About 15,000 people have not yet been able to return to their homes, according to the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management.
The east coast of Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, is already experiencing cloudy, windy weather as the cyclone approaches.
In Antananarivo, the capital, many low-lying neighborhoods that were flooded in January are expecting renewed inundation from the new cyclone.