AFRICA/MADAGASCAR - “Most of Tulear is still under water. Mission structures seriously damaged”: Testimonial from, Tulear, south west Madagascar after cyclone Ernest

Thursday, 3 February 2005

Tulear (Fides Service)- “A sea of mud and water invaded most homes in districts closest to the sea” said Father. Leonardo, ad interim director of Radio Don Bosco news programme in Madagascar, speaking from Tulear, in south west Madagascar. The town was hit by torrential rains and winds. “Cyclone Ernest hit south west Madagascar on Friday 21 January; trees fell and roofs of houses were lifted off ” Father Leonardo told Fides. “But the situation was aggravated by four whole days of heavy rain. Today 80 % of the town is still flooded. In some parts of Tulear the water is half a metre high. And at least five persons were killed”.
“The disaster was worsened by the fact that the town has no sewage system. Tulear stands on clay which does not absorb water. The people say that rain water always stays on the streets for several days until it evaporates in heat of the sunshine” Father Leonardo explained.
“One of two local Salesian missions was damaged. One mission standing on highland was spared but the other one was flooded. The training centre and sports grounds are still under about 30 cm of water ” the missionary said. “The Salesian missionaries have supplied tents to families who had to evacuate their homes. The UN World Food Programme and the Red Cross are providing emergency supplies of food and medicine.
“Other church structures were damaged including the cathedral which is still flooded” Father Leonardo said. “To prevent such tragedies in the future it is essential to provide the town with a proper sewage system but it would seem that funds are not available. People are trying to do what they can on their own. The Salesians are considering digging a deep well close to the sports ground to drain off excess water”.
In Tulear the main town in the province of Toliara the cyclone killed 15 persons and left 63 missing and almost 8,000 homeless among a population of about 100,000. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 3/2/2005 righe 34 parole 449)