A tropical cyclone that barreled into the Mozambique Channel now has intensified into a major storm with winds of 167 kilometers per hour, and gusts of 200 km/h, as it heads toward a likely landfall in Madagascar.
Cyclone Belna was no longer a threat to Mayotte as of late Sunday, according to Météo France Reunion, the regional authority for cyclones in the southwest Indian Ocean. Mayotte residents were placed under a red-alert status, with shipping and other warnings, that was later lifted. Météo France said Belna remained a compact storm with the strongest winds staying within a 70-kilometer radius of a small eye, all of which remained offshore.
The storm did make a direct hit on the uninhabited Glorious Islands, a tiny French-held archipelago about 250 kilometers northwest of Antsiranana, the capital of Madagascar’s northern Diana province.
It’s Madagascar’s northwestern coast, however, that appears to be in the direct path of the storm as it heads south at about 15 km/h in favorable conditions for maintaining its intensity, according to the United States Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Both the French and U.S. agencies expect a landfall near or west of the port city of Mahajanga, likely on Monday, with wind speeds holding at about 167 km/h (90 knots).
As of late Sunday, local authorities maintained a “green” warning level for the northwest part of the country. Citizens are advised to prepare for wind and heavy rains and to monitor updates.
Meteorologists also are keeping a close eye on a second system off the Horn of Africa that is not expected to become a threat at this time. The storms follow the arrival of Pawan on Somalia’s coast on Friday. United Nations agencies there reported new storm damage, along with flash flooding from heavy rains.