Transportation, Crime, Weather, Other Interesting Facts
Roads tend to be narrow and winding, with many one-lane bridges and blind curves. Heavy freight traffic on major roads in and out of Antananarivo can pose hazards. Vehicles tend to drive in the center of the road unless another vehicle is present. Local practice is to blow the horn before going around a curve, to let others know of your presence. Yay for me getting a driver. Actually…based on my driving record, I could use a driver here….
Armed robberies are on the increase in urban areas, and tourists are a common target. A Canadian national on vacation in Madagascar was killed in an apparent armed robbery in Antananarivo in February 2009. (Please don’t worry, grandma or mom – just think of all the Canadians that get killed in Canada!!)
Madagascar until recently has been relatively calm, but tensions that boiled over in January 2009 have ratcheted up to such a degree that some experts now fear a civil war may be brewing. Anti-government demonstrations have led to riots, violent incidents and looting, with scores of deaths reported in the capital. A particularly bloody incident occurred on 7 February 2009, when police opened fire on protesters with live rounds, killing at least 30.
By mid-March 2009, as the unrest continued, anti-government elements in the military mutinied and forced their chief to resign. Some reports suggested the mutinous troops had moved tanks into the capital. Aid agencies and the U.S. Embassy then began evacuating nonemergency personnel. A few days later, opposition leaders closed in on the presidency and announced that they had seized control of the country, driving President Marc Ravalomanana out of office and replacing him with former Antananarivo mayor Andry Rajoelina. Protests have continued, however, with supporters of Ravalomanana demonstrating on a near-daily basis as he works to rally support from exile in Swaziland.
Although the capital has been hardest hit, other cities also have been affected, and a night-time curfew has been imposed in some places. There was a curfew in Tamatave for a few weeks, but now its business as usual….whatever that is. The country has settled a bit…but its still a bit of a risk.
The island is seriously exposed to tropical cyclones. These generally affect only the eastern (especially the northeast) portion of the island, but they can bring torrential rains and destructive floods. Roads may be impassable during the rainy season, November-April. Cyclones may also damage infrastructure, telecomunications, create power outtages and flooding.
2007 – Six cyclones killed 150 people in the northeastern regions.
February 2008 – Cyclone Ivan – the largest cyclone ever – damaged infrastructure, crops, and buildings.
March 2009 – Cyclone Jade killed three and destroyed 800 homes.
Since this post sounds a bit depressing…I thought I’d leave off with a few interesting facts…
- Famadihana is a funerary tradition of the Malagasy people. Known as the turning of the bones, people bring forth the bodies of their ancestors from the family crypts and rewrap them in fresh cloth, then dance with the corpses around the tomb to live music.
- Fady - is a type of taboo. One Fady in some towns – its not acceptable to hand an egg directly to a person. The proper protocol is to place it on the ground first.
- Malagasy eat locuts - the insects are considered quite tasty.