Madagascar hit by cyclone Giovanna
A tropical cyclone has hit the island of Madagascar, with winds of up to 194km (120mph) ripping up trees and electricity pylons. Cyclone Giovanna made landfall overnight near the eastern port city of Toamasina.
Meteorologists warn the damage may be as bad as in 1994, when a cyclone killed 200 people and displaced 40,000.
At least one person has been killed in the inland sugar-producing town of Brickaville after an electricity pole fell on her, a government official told the Reuters news agency.
Antananarivo-based journalist Tim Healy told the BBC's Network Africa programme that the capital was experiencing very high winds and heavy rainfall - after the eye of the storm passed through about six hours after battering Toamasina, 200km (about 125 miles) away.
People are staying at home as offices, schools and businesses have been shut and the power has been cut off.
He says he has been unable to ask residents living in and nearby Toamasina - also known locally as Tamatave - about the extent of the damage there because telephone lines have been brought down by the cyclone.
But he warns it could be serious - given that many coastal villagers live in simple houses built of wood and leaves.
Storm surge warning
The government of Madagascar issued the first warnings on Monday afternoon - but residents say the intensity of the cyclone was not explained.
Town criers, who walk around the streets ringing a bell and shouting out information in the local Malagasy language, are normally used by the government in a time of crisis.
But Mr Healy said they were not heard on Monday and it has left many people taken aback by the storm's severity.
Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island, is prone to cyclones and tropical storms, especially in the rainy season between February and May.
Mike Piggot, a meteorologist with the US-based monitoring body AccuWeather, told the BBC the storm was of a similar strength to Cyclone Geralda.
It was one of the worst cyclones to hit Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean, and destroyed about 300,000 hectares of crops and left thousands homeless in 1994.
Cyclone Giovanna is expected to weaken as it moves across the island, which produces vanilla, coffee and nickel.
But Mr Piggot warned there was still the danger that more lives could be lost and property destroyed.
Coastal towns are at risk of storm surges, where ocean water is pushed ashore, in this case of between 2m and 3m (7f and 10ft), he said.
The whole island could also see rainfall of between 10in and 20in (25cm and 50cm), which could lead to dangerous landslides.
The storm is now heading towards southern Mozambique, he said.
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