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Strong wind and rain have hit the east coast of Madagascar as Cyclone Batsirai made landfall, the second major storm in less than two weeks. Gusts hit speeds of 235 km/hour and high waves battered coastal areas. Many people have been moved to shelters and local officials fear that landslides and flooding could leave tens of thousands more homeless.

Storm Ana caused widespread destruction when it hit the Indian Ocean island nation last month, killing 55 people. Cyclone Batsirai made landfall near the south-eastern city of Mananjary, around 530 kilometres from the capital Antananarivo, at around 20:00 local time (17:00 GMT) on



Saturday.

Environment Minister Vahinala Raharinirina told the BBC that houses, hospitals and schools had been destroyed, and that 35,000 people had been forced from their homes, with the number expected to rise.

Experts fear that Cyclone Batsirai could prove to be even more destructive than Storm Ana, which also hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and officials have called on the international community to offer assistance. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has prepared food stocks to distribute to those in need, while some people have already been evacuated. The UN has put rescue aircraft on standby.



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