ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar – The death toll from the powerful cyclone which ripped through the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar has reached 26 and the government is expected to appeal for international assistance, disaster management officials said Thursday.
This is the first official confirmation of the number of deaths since Cyclone Ivan — the second big cyclone of the season — lashed the island on Sunday with winds of up to 200 kph (125 mph).
Two of the deaths had occurred during the cyclone but the other fatalities had been the result of the heavy flooding caused by the torrential rain brought with the strong winds, said Dia Styvanley, spokeswoman for Madagascar's Disaster Response Management Office.
Styvanley said 55,000 people had been affected, 14,000 people left homeless and 18,000 hectares (45,000 acres) of rice fields damaged.
She said a call for international assistance to help with the aftermath of the cyclone will be made Friday.
Authorities were still assessing damage caused by the cyclone as some areas remained cut off and are only accessible by air or boat.
Danyl Ismael, a businessman from the island of Sainte Marie, on the north east coast, said 80 percent of buildings have been destroyed and there was no water or electricity.
"The big problem for Sainte Marie is the risk of diseases," he said.
Madagascar, the world's fourth-largest island, regularly suffers from cyclones at this time of year and there are fears that global warming may exacerbate this. Last season was the worst on record with six cyclones that killed some 150 people. Thirteen people were reportedly killed by Cyclone Fame earlier this month.