Alvaro, first cyclone of 2024, hits Madagascar

Over 16,000 affected; 8,400 people have been displaced and 5 killed    

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Friday 05 January 2024
A screen grab of Zoom Earth, showing the path of Cyclone Alvaro

Alvaro, the first cyclone of 2024, made landfall near Morombe in Madagascar on January 1, 2024.  It is the first cyclone to hit Madagascar during the 2023-2024 season, which in the southwest Indian Ocean runs from around late October to May

Over 16,100 people have been affected by Alvaro. At least five people have been killed and 8,400 people displaced by the disaster. One local media report, citing government sources, said the death toll could be higher.

The world’s fourth-largest island was hit by disastrous storms in January and February of 2023. It was hit by tropical storm Cheneso, which had made landfall on January 19, 2023, along the northeastern coast of the country. Cheneso killed 33 people and affected 90,870, according to the National Bureau of Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC). 

Tropical Cyclone Alvaro has affected close to half of the total number of people affected by Cyclone Freddy in Madagascar. Freddy, made landfall along Madagascar’s south-eastern coast on February 21, 2023. At least 19,000 people were displaced and 17 killed because of it.

Atsimo-Andrefana, Haute Matsiatra and Menabe are the worst-hit regions of Madgascar in the wake of Alvaro.

It is extremely difficult to evacuate and drain rainwater towards the sea when it rains in areas like Morombe province where Alvaro made landfall, according to media reports. Motor pumps are needed to remove stagnant water and early warning and preparedness would have averted the current disaster, experts quoted in these reports said.

The effects of Alvaro, a Severe Tropical Storm, underscore Madagascar’s vulnerability to climate-related disasters once again. This underlines the growing importance of Early Warning For All, the World Meteorological Organization said in a tweet on January 3, 2024.

The existing early warning systems in the Southern Africa region, including Madagascar, are inadequate to prevent loss of life and economic hardship. 

REPRESA (Resilience and Preparedness to tropical cyclones across Southern Africa), launched in July 2023, is an international project which involves partners across southern Africa, the UK and other European countries.

It seeks to improve community readiness throughout Madagascar and southern Africa, the areas most severely affected by tropical cyclones.

The project, which will be co-led by the University of Bristol (UoB) in the UK, Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) in Mozambique, and the Global Change Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in South Africa, will run from June 2023 until the end of November 2026. Experts from the University of Reading will work with vulnerable communities in Madagascar for strengthening flood forecasting and early warning capacity.

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