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Cyclone Freddy leaves deadly trail in Madagascar, heads to Mozambique

A cyclone that is intensifying as it approaches the southeastern African coast has been labeled as “dangerous” by the United Nation’s weather agency as nations brace for landfall.

As of Wednesday, Cyclone Freddy already left at least four dead in Madagascar, triggering a storm surge while ripping roofs off houses.

A 27-year-old man drowned in rising sea waters on Tuesday just before the storm made landfall. But on Wednesday authorities put the toll at four.

It is expected to hit Mozambique by the end of the week.

A “significant deterioration in weather conditions” is underway, according to Meteo France’s multi-hazard early warning system. 

The weather agency said the cyclone is passing around 100 kilometres (60 miles) away from the islands of Mauritius and later Reunion.

Mauritius has already encountered flooding and gale force winds.

The regional weather observation centre on the island of Reunion said that Freddy is currently rushing across the ocean with average wind speeds of 205 kilometres (127 miles) per hour.

It’s feared that up to 2.2 million people, mostly in Madagascar, will be impacted by storm surges and flooding, according to the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System. 

READ MORE: New Zealand fears more fatalities after deadly Cyclone Gabrielle

Vulnerable nations brace

The Mahanoro, Mananjary and Nosy Varita communes in western Madagascar were also expected to be affected.

Mozambique will likely be struck on Friday, according to the country’s national meteorology institute. 

The nation has already experienced widespread flooding in recent weeks, raising fears from the UN humanitarian agency that the “severe humanitarian situation in the region” may escalate.

Some five other nations — Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa — are also vulnerable as Freddy looks set to tear across the Mozambican channel after Wednesday, according to the region’s climate service centre.

Last year, scientists were able to show that climate crisis worsened cyclones in southeast Africa, already a hotspot for tropical storms and cyclones.

In the last 12 months the region has suffered a significant battering from a number of cyclones and suffered major loss of life, property, displacement of large populations and costly damages to major infrastructure.

“It is hoped that accurate warnings and forecasts will help limit the damage from Tropical Cyclone Freddy,” said UN weather agency spokesperson Clare Nullis.

First spotted and named by a monitoring centre in Melbourne, Australia, on February 6, Cyclone Freddy has since crossed the entire southern Indian Ocean.

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