Cyclone Freddy: Mauritius and Madagascar brace for floods and destructive winds

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Mauritius grounded flights and Madagascar braced for floods and landslides on Monday as tropical cyclone Freddy headed across the Indian Ocean towards southeast Africa.

The storm, packing wind gusts of up to 75 miles per hour, posed a direct threat to the island nations and Mozambique, authorities said. It is equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane.

A video showed strong winds and waves hitting an oceanfront hotel in Mauritius as water entered the lobby of the hotel as guests and staff looked on.

Authorities on Madagascar, about 1,130 km west of Mauritius. said they were expecting a direct hit by late Tuesday.

“Torrential rains… very high to enormous seas… and a significant risk of coastal flooding are particularly to be feared in the localities around the point of impact,” Madagascar’s weather service said.

It is 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. The Mahanoro, Mananjary and Nosy Varita communes in western Madagascar will be first-hit on Tuesday.

Mozambique could 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.

Five other coastal countries — Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa — are also vulnerable as Freddy looks set to tear across the Mozambican channel after Wednesday.

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

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.