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Madagascar Cyclone Freddy's Next Target

FILE: Map (in French) showing path of Cyclone Freddy over Madagascar on Tuesday, February 22, 2023. Courtesy VOA French-to-Africa Service.

Tropical Cyclone Freddy was poised to strike eastern Madagascar on Tuesday, slightly weakening after brushing Mauritius with powerful winds and heavy rain, monitors said.

The storm was expected to make landfall on the island's eastern coast on Tuesday evening, the U.N.'s disaster agency OCHA warned.

The storm will be "likely at an intense stage," packing winds of up to 120 kilometers per hour, it said.

Freddy on Monday passed some 120 kms northeast of Mauritius and 190 kms from the French island of La Reunion.

Although expected to have slightly weakened, it will still bring "devastating winds" and "very dangerous conditions," the French forecaster Meteo-France said.

The storm is likely to land north of Mananjary, a coastal town of 25,000 people that remains devastated by last year's Cyclone Batsirai, which killed more than 130 people across the country.

The UN's World Food Program (WFP) said more than 2.3 million people in Madagascar could be affected by Freddy, and the cyclone would pass through Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The large Indian Ocean island typically takes several hits during the annual November- April storm season.

Freddy is the first cyclone, and the second tropical weather system, to hit during the current season, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

Flights headed for Madagascar's eastern coast regions were cancelled, a journalist in the capital Madagascar reported.

Locals in the coastal region told AFP by phone that they were busy reinforcing roofs with sandbags to prevent them from being blown away.

- Mauritius spared -

Authorities in Mauritius on Tuesday lifted a cyclone warning but warned that they remained on alert for heavy rain.

The lifting of the warning enabled government offices to re-open and shops, banks and public transport to resume services.

The international airport began operating again as of 8 am, according to aviation authorities.

Last month a powerful storm named Cheneso smashed into northeastern Madagascar bringing heavy winds and triggering downpours that caused extensive flooding, and killed at least 33 people after affecting more than 90,000.