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Storm Cheneso picks up in Madagascar, more flooding to come

MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — A severe tropical storm which devastated parts of Madagascar this week is set to continue to wreak havoc on the country as it strengthens over the weekend, the United Nations regional weather monitoring service said.

The storm has killed 8 people and ten are still missing, according to Madagascar’s National Bureau of Risk and Disaster Management. It has displaced over 60,000 people and damaged 13,000 houses in northern and central Madagascar.

An alert issued by local authorities on Friday warned of heavy rainfall in central and western parts of the country with an imminent risk of flooding and landslides. Flash floods are expected in the western coastal town of Morombe, raising fears of further destruction and displacement.

Over the next few days Cheneso could dump in some areas of Madagascar more than 200% of their average January rainfall, the U.K.’s meteorological office warned.

Storm Cheneso, currently classed as a severe tropical storm, is expected to be upgraded to a cyclone by the U.N.’s regional weather center. The weather system is also likely move in a southeasterly direction and away from inhabited land, but meteorologists remain cautious.

“Cyclones can shift direction at any moment depending on wind directions and other prevailing conditions. That is why alerts are issued with caution,” said Evans Mukolwe, a retired meteorologist. “It can alter course anytime.”

Storm Cheneso first made landfall as a moderate storm nine days ago in the Sava region in northeastern Madagascar. Cheneso weakened as it stalled over the country for much of the week and is now strengthening.

Cyclones are typical in southern Africa from December to March, but scientists say climate change has caused storms to be wetter, more frequent and more intense.

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