Madagascar death toll rises to 44 after cyclone

>ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) – The death toll has risen to 44 and the number of homeless is up to 145,000 more than a week after a cyclone tore through this island in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar’s government said Monday.

Areas on the eastern side of the island remained cut off by flood waters. Seven major roads were impassable and bridges have been destroyed, hampering attempts to deliver relief, according to the Ministry of Transport.

Cyclone Ivan lashed Madagascar on Feb. 17 with torrential rain and winds of up to 140 miles per hour.

The hardest-hit region is Fenerive Este, where one out of nearly every three residents lost their homes and 70 percent of buildings have been destroyed. Emergency medical supplies have been exhausted on island of Sainte Marie, a popular tourist resort that is home to 19,000, officials said.

Madagascar now faces food shortages after 37,000 acres of rice fields were flooded in the region of Alaotra Mangoro, which provides nearly a third of the island’s staple food.

A relief effort is under way to provide rice, yogurt, cheese and money to parts of the east coast. The U.S. has donated $100,000.

Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, is regularly struck by cyclones, and there are fears that global warming may exacerbate the cyclone season. Last season was the worst on record – six cyclones killed about 150 people.