ANTANANARIVO, Feb 14, 2012 (AFP) - Cyclone Giovanna hit Madagascar on Tuesday, pounding the Indian Ocean island with strong winds and heavy rain and killing at least one person, according to officials. The violent storm tore roofs off houses, damaged buildings and trees, and caused power cuts in the capital, Antananarivo. "For the moment, we just have one death confirmed, in Brickaville," 220 kilometres (135 miles) east of Antananarivo, a disaster management official told AFP, although details on damage and casualties were still being gathered.
A local website said the death was caused by a coconut tree that fell on a house, killing the father of the family that lived there. The authorities had issued a weather alert Monday, warning that the intense tropical cyclone was headed toward the east coast between the towns of Tamatave and Brickaville around 2:00 am (2300 GMT) and would reach Antananarivo about seven hours later.
Violent winds began lashing the capital around 1:00 am, and heavy rains fell until 7:00 am. As the storm approached, officials had warned Antananarivo residents to stay home. The city was just beginning to show signs of life again Tuesday afternoon after slowing to a halt in the morning. Air Madagascar's website said the airline had cancelled all flights leaving from Antananarivo for the day, though aviation authorities said the airport was still open. Giovanna had already forced Port Louis airport in Mauritius to close Saturday.
Cyclone season in Madagascar runs from November to April. In February 2011, Cyclone Bingiza hit the east coast and crossed the north of the country before turning and crossing the south, killing at least 34 people and affecting some 216,000. In 2010, tropical storm Hubert killed at least 83 and affected some 187,000.