Ten Killed By Floods In Madagascar Capital

 

At least 10 people have died in flash floods triggered by torrential rain that battered Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo overnight, an interior ministry official said Tuesday.

“The floods caused landslides and houses collapsed,” Sonia Ray, spokeswoman for the ministry’s disaster management office, told AFP.

Two people have been injured and more than 500 displaced from their homes, according to preliminary figures.

Some 20 districts are on red alert, facing “imminent danger” of flooding.

Rescue teams have been mobilised to evacuate areas at risk, gymnasiums and other temporary shelters are being prepared for the homeless and the authorities are considering closing schools.

Madagascans shared pictures on social media of inundated streets and wooden huts swept away.

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On Monday night, rainfall averaged 100 milimetres (four inches) per hour, Ray said.

The rainfall is expected to peak on Thursday but continue until the end of the month.

The country’s wet-season woes are not yet over.

Weather forecaster Lovandrainy Ratovoharisoa said a cyclone was expected to strike the island’s east coast at the end of the month.

Two years ago heavy rainfall claimed the lives of 26 people dead, while 15 went missing and 90,000 were affected.

Death Toll In Madagascar Shipwreck Rises To 64

Madagascar map.

 

The death toll from a shipwreck off Madagascar’s northeastern coast has risen to at least 64 after 25 more bodies were discovered, maritime authorities said Wednesday.

A wooden vessel, believed to be a cargo ship carrying passengers illegally, sank in the Indian Ocean on Monday with 130 people on board. Five children were among the dead.

Fifty passengers have since been rescued and around 15 remain missing. The search for survivors continues.

READ ALSO: Madagascar Minister Swims 12 Hours To Shore After Helicopter Crash

“Twenty-five bodies were found this morning near Sainte-Marie islands, probably due to sea currents, which brings the death total to 64,” gendarmerie general Zafisambatra Ravoavy told AFP.

Maritime authorities said initial investigations suggested the vessel’s engine had a “technical problem”, leaving the boat vulnerable to tidal forces and causing it to run aground on a reef.

A Malagasy government minister who travelled to the disaster scene swam 12 hours to shore on Tuesday after his helicopter crashed off the island nation’s northeastern coast.

AFP

Madagascar Minister Swims 12 Hours To Shore After Helicopter Crash

Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar, and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres off the coast of East Africa across the Mozambique Channel.
Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar, and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres off the coast of East Africa across the Mozambique Channel.

 

A Madagascan minister was one of two survivors to have swum some 12 hours to shore Tuesday after their helicopter crashed off the island’s northeastern coast, authorities said.

A search was still ongoing for two other passengers after the crash Monday, whose cause was not immediately clear, police and port authorities said.

Serge Gelle, the country’s secretary of state for police, and a fellow policeman reached land in the seaside town of Mahambo separately on Tuesday morning, apparently after ejecting themselves from the aircraft, port authority chief Jean-Edmond Randrianantenaina said.

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In a video shared on social media, 57-year-old Gelle appears lying exhausted on a deck chair, still in his camouflage uniform.

“My time to die hasn’t come yet,” says the general, adding he is cold but not injured.

The helicopter was flying him and the others to inspect the site of a shipwreck off the northeastern coast on Monday morning.

At least 39 people died in that disaster, police chief Zafisambatra Ravoavy said Tuesday, in an increase from a previous toll after rescue workers retrieved 18 more bodies.

Ravoavy earlier told AFP that Gelle had used one of the helicopter’s seats as a flotation device.

“He has always had great stamina in sport, and he’s kept up this rhythm as minister, just like a thirty-year-old,” he said.

“He has nerves of steel.”

Gella became minister as part of a cabinet reshuffle in August after serving in the police for three decades.

 

AFP

Five Convicted In Madagascar Coup Plot

 

A Madagascar court convicted five people, including two Frenchmen, to up to 20 years in prison for plotting a coup in the Indian Ocean nation.

The defendants were among 20 people accused of trying to assassinate President Andry Rajoelina in July.

On Friday, a court found five of them guilty of plotting an assassination, compromising state security, and criminal association.

Two of them, French-Madagascan national Paul Rafanoharana and his wife Voahangy Andrianandrianina, were convicted of additional charges of illegal weapons possession.

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He received 20 years, while she got five years — both with imprisonment with hard labour.

French former army colonel Philippe Francois was sentenced to 10 years. His former business associate Aina Razafindrakoto received five years.

Former prime minister Victor Ramahatra received a five-year suspended sentence.

Rafanoharana’s lawyer, Solo Radson, said he would appeal, slamming the verdict as unfair.

“I did not expect this. This is an unjust verdict, based on an empty case. It’s a political trial,” he said.

Lawyers have three working days to lodge their appeal.

Prosecutor Arsene Rabe said the five people convicted Friday belonged to “a criminal organisation” seeking to “commit an attack against President Rajoelina”.

The plot was uncovered “thanks to emails, weapons and money seized” during various raids, Rabe said.

A computer file labelled “Apollo 21 budget” was discovered on Rafanoharana’s computer, containing a budget for the assassination attempt. Another copy was recovered from a thumb drive belonging to Francois.

The defense tried to cast doubt on any connections between the plot and the accused, claiming that they had been denied a presumption of innocence because of numerous leaks to the media about the case.

Former colonel Francois, who ran an investment company in Madagascar called Tsarafirst, said this month that he never planned to attack the president.

“It’s an insult to my honour, and to my intelligence, to think that I had something to do with Apollo 21,” he said.

Francois, Rafanoharana and their wives were arrested on July 20 and imprisoned in early August after a long period in police custody.

Francois and his wife said they were planning to move to France when they were arrested at the airport.

 

AFP

Madagascar Prosecutors Say Foiled Assassination Bid On President

FILES) In this file photograph taken on June 26, 2021, Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina inspects troops during Independence Day celebrations at The Barea Stadium in Antananarivo. 
RIJASOLO / AFP

 

Prosecutors in Madagascar said Thursday they had foiled an attempt to assassinate President Andry Rajoelina and made several arrests.

“Several foreign and Madagascar nationals were arrested on Tuesday, July 20, as part of an investigation into an attack on state security,” prosecutor Berthine Razafiarivony said in a statement released overnight.

There was “a plan to eliminate and neutralise various Madagascan figures, including the head of state,” Razafiarivony said.

“At this stage of the investigation, which is ongoing, the prosecutor-general’s office assures we will shed light on this case,” she added.

Two French nationals are among those who were arrested on Tuesday, diplomatic sources told AFP.

The two suspects are reputedly retired military officers, according to the Taratra, a local news agency operation to the Communications ministry.

During the country’s Independence Day celebrations on June 26, the gendarmerie announced that they had foiled an assassination attempt on their boss, General Richard Ravalomanana, who is also Rajoelina’s right-hand man.

Rajoelina, 47, first seized power in March 2009 from Marc Ravalomanana with the backing of the military.

He won the last vote in December 2018 beating his main rival and predecessor Ravalomanana in an election beset by allegations of fraud.

The former French colony has had a long history of coups and unrest since gaining independence from France in 1960.

The island is internationally famed for its unique wildlife and vanilla but is heavily dependent on foreign aid. Nine out of 10 people live on less than $2 a day.

The country has been under a lockdown since the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year and its southern region is in the grips of a famine.

-AFP

World Bank Earmarks $490 Million For Madagascar

 

The World Bank has earmarked a total of $490 million (416 million euros) to help Madagascar buy Covid vaccines and finance development projects, the two sides announced on Wednesday.

The Bank will provide a grant of 100 million euros to help the Indian Ocean island purchase vaccines and boost its health system, Economy Minister Richard Randriamandrato told AFP.

Madagascar wants to vaccinate more than half of its adult population by the end of 2022, “a goal that is ambitious but not impossible,” the World Bank’s local representative, Marie-Chantal Uwanyiligira, said.

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Another $40 million, in the form of an emergency grant, will finance sustainable and innovative agriculture, particularly in irrigation.

The Bank has also set aside $150 million to help tourism, agribusiness and the digital economy, which are seen as having promising growth potential, and $200 million to maintain 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) of roads and strengthen their resistance to climate change.

AFP

Ex-Madagascar President Didier Ratsiraka Dies At 84

This file photo taken on February 28, 2002 in Antananarivo shows then Madagascar president Didier Ratsiraka talking to journalists. Ratsiraka died aged 84 on March 28, 2021.
Pedro UGARTE / AFP

 

Madagascar’s longtime former leader Didier Ratsiraka, a naval officer and instigator of a socialist revolution on the Indian Ocean island, died Sunday morning aged 84, president Andry Rajoelina announced.

“The Malagasy have lost an illustrious patriot,” Rajoelina posted on Twitter.

The cause of the death was not immediately disclosed.

Ratsiraka was in power from 1975 until 1991 and returned for another stint from 1997 to 2002.

When he first came to power, he practised a form of Marxism and had close ties to North Korea’s Kim Il Sung, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and the Kremlin.

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In January 2002, Ratsiraka’s rival, Antananarivo mayor and entrepreneur Marc Ravalomanana, sent his supporters into the streets claiming victory in the first round of presidential elections held in December 2001.

Ravalomanana refused to organise a second round of voting, while Ratsiraka declined to concede defeat, plunging the country into seven months of violence and chaos.

In this file photo taken on September 12, 2013 former Madagascar president Didier Ratsiraka makes his first appearance since his exclusion from the presidential election candidates list, answering answers questions from national and foreign press on a private TV station in Antananarivo.  BILAL TARABEY / AFP

 

The impasse split the nation in two — with two capitals, two governments, and a divided army — until Ravalomanana was officially proclaimed president in April 2002 and sworn in on May 6, with Ratsiraka still disputing the result.

The following July, Ratsiraka fled into exile in France where he remained for 11 years, returning home in 2013.

In 2003, Ratsiraka was sentenced in absentia to hard labour, five years in jail for threatening state security and 10 years for embezzling public funds.

AFP

UN Seeks $76 million In Emergency Aid For Madagascar

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The United Nations said Tuesday that $76 million was urgently needed to help over one million people in southern Madagascar facing potentially life-threating shortages of food, water and health assistance.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA issued its so-called flash appeal after the impoverished island country in eastern Africa saw its agricultural season ruined by the worst drought in a decade.

At the same time, the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns implemented to halt the spread of the virus have amplified the hit from the drought — the third in a row, it said.

“These compound crises have driven people to the brink of survival,” OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva.

“One in three people in the south are now severely food insecure,” he said.

More than 135,000 children under the age of five are now projected to be suffering from acute malnutrition in the south of the country in coming months.

Farming families usually get through droughts by sending members into cities to seek temporary work.

But OCHA said such coping strategies had been made impossible by the Covid-19 lockdowns, which have included months-long bans on travel between regions.

Just a week ago, the UN’s World Food Programme appealed for $35 million in emergency aid to help fight hunger in the region.

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Laerke said Tuesday the flash appeal was meant to complement Madagascar’s own national response and was focused solely on “the most urgent life-saving and life-sustaining needs of communities in the Grand Sud during the peak of the lean season.”

The assistance would help improve food security for 1.1 million people, provide water access for over 400,000 people and give nutritional support to 300,000 children under the age of five, he said.

It would also help provide essential health services to nearly a quarter of a million people.

UN Seeks $35 Million In Emergency Aid For Madagascar

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) appealed on Tuesday for emergency aid of $35 million to fight hunger in southern Madagascar, hit by the coronavirus pandemic and a third consecutive year of drought.

“Some 1.35 million people are projected to be food insecure — 35 percent of the region’s population,” the WFP said in a statement.

“With severe malnutrition rates continuing to spiral and many children forced to beg in order to help their families eat, urgent action is required to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”

The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the hit from a long-term drought, it said.

Seasonal employment has dried up, affecting rural families who saved this income to help them through the lean season, which peaks between January and April.

“To survive, families are eating tamarind fruit mixed with clay,” the statement quoted Moumini Ouedraogo, WFP’s Madagascar representative, as saying.

“We can’t face another year like this. With no rain and a poor harvest, people will face starvation. No one should have to live like this.”

The WFP currently provides food aid for almost half a million people in the nine hardest-hit districts in the south of the island, and intends to ramp this up to nearly 900,000 by June.

It is seeking $35 million (29 million euros) for emergency food and malnutrition programmes, including an initiative to feed schoolchildren so that they can stay in class rather than leave to seek work or beg.

Madagascar To Host 2020 African Judo Championships

The African Judo Union (AJU) has awarded the 2020 African Judo Championships hosting rights to Madagascar.

The decision to award the 41st edition of the competition, scheduled for December 17 to 20 in Antananarivo, was reached at a steering committee meeting by the AJU.

A statement released by the union revealed that the African Championships for cadets and juniors, as well as kata events, have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“These following decisions have been taken to ensure health and security of our athletes in these difficult times,” it said.

In a video conference, AJU President Habib Sissoko, explained that the health and safety of the athletes were the most important things.

He added that the union was taking note of the second wave of COVID-19 in Europe, which has impacted many events on the continent.

Sissoko stated that hosting the championships was important due to the event contributing towards qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which have been postponed to next year because of the virus.

Gold medallists will be awarded 700 qualifying points at the African Championships.

The President of the Malagasy Judo Federation, Siteny Randrianasolo-Niaiko, who is also the chairman of the AJU, affirmed that the hosts would ensure the tournament was safe for athletes and activities would be done in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.

20 Inmates Killed In Madagascar Prison Breakout

 

Twenty inmates were killed in a shootout with police during a prison breakout in Madagascar on Sunday, the justice ministry said.

Scores of prisoners attacked guards with rocks and grabbed a gun as they tried to flee the Farafangana prison in the southeast of the Indian Ocean island, it said.

The police and army moved in, capturing 37 of the 88 escapees, while another 20 were killed and eight wounded in a shootout.

Thirty-one inmates are still on the run, the ministry said, vowing to boost security at all penitentiaries across the country.

Mass prison escapes are not uncommon in Madagascar. In 2016, around 40 detainees broke out from a high-security prison in Toliary in southern Madagascar.

AFP

Madagascar Sacks Health Minister After COVID-19 Squabble

Madagascar President, Andry Rajoelina. Credit: @AfricanCurators

 

Madagascar on Thursday said it had fired its health minister as part of a government reshuffle, a move that came a month after he butted heads with the president for seeking outside help for coronavirus.

The Indian Ocean island-nation saw COVID-19 cases surge in July despite an official campaign to promote a controversial herbal drink touted as a remedy for the virus.

As hospitals raised concern about lack of beds, Health Minister Ahmad Ahmad wrote a letter in July asking international agencies to send medical equipment.

His appeal sparked anger in President Andry Rajoelina’s administration, which said Ahmad had acted “without consulting” either the government or head of state.

Ahmad’s cabinet exit was revealed on Thursday in the announcement of a new list of ministers following a reshuffle.

“Jean Louis Hanitrala Rakotovao has been named new health minister,” cabinet secretary Valery Ramonjavelo told a press conference, without giving details about the change.

Rajoelina has been promoting an infusion derived from artemisia, a plant with proven anti-malarial properties, as a homegrown cure for COVID-19.

File photo: Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina drinks a sample of the “Covid Organics” or CVO remedy at a launch ceremony in Antananarivo on April 20, 2020. “Covid Organics” or CVO is a remedy produced by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA) created from the Artemisia plant and supposedly help to prevent any infection caused by the new coronavirus Covid-19.
RIJASOLO / AFP.

 

The drink, named Covid-Organics, has been widely distributed in Madagascar and sold to several other countries, mainly in Africa.

The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned that there have been no published scientific studies to validate claims for the drink, and mainstream scientists have pointed to potential risks from untested concoctions.

Rajoelina has ignored the warnings and blamed a jump in cases last month on “increased testing capacity”.

Madagascar’s coronavirus outbreak seems to have slowed since then, with new daily confirmed cases dropping from peaks of over 400 in July to an average of around 80 since Monday.

To date the country has recorded more than 14,000 infections, of which 177 deaths have been fatal.

AFP