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Madagascar cyclone leaves 3,000 homeless

/ Source: The Associated Press

A powerful cyclone that hit the west coast of Madagascar killed three people and left nearly 3,000 homeless, officials said Thursday.

Cyclone Fanele hit the Morondava district on Wednesday, bringing with it heavy rain and winds of up to 130 miles per hour. It uprooted giant trees, flattened homes and left large areas flooded, an Associated Press reporter saw during a tour of the affected areas with government disaster officials and relief agencies.

Madagascar lies off the southern coast of Africa in the storm-prone Indian Ocean. Last year cyclones killed more than 100 and affected a further 300,000.

Government officials are still waiting for further details of casualties.

Morondava, a regional hub and home to about 30,000 people, is without water and electricity. The local hospital had its roof blown off.

Michel Randrialtsialonina and his family lost their home after a tree fell on it during the storm. "The noise was so loud it was like in a war. We all trembled," he said.

The storm also tore down electricity poles and left roads waterlogged and strewn with debris. Mopping-up operations have begun and the sound of banging can be heard in the town as people begin rebuilding their homes.

From the air, the damage in the region is clearly visible. Rivers are swollen and river plains badly flooded.

In the remote town of Manje, many of the area's famed enormous Baobab trees have been blown over.

On Monday, a less powerful cyclone skirted Madagascar's eastern coast, killing one person and leaving 27 injured and 992 homeless.

Forecasters have warned that a warmer-than-average summer in the southern hemisphere could mean stronger storms for cyclone-prone Madagascar this year.

A new disaster management plan put in place this year is expected to yield a quicker response by local authorities and relief packages of tents, water pumps and food have been distributed in advance.