Madagascar cyclone kills five

Five people were killed as pounding rain and high winds from tropical cyclone Felleng battered Madagascar on Thursday, officials said.

"Four people died after a house collapsed in Antananarivo and one person drowned in Maroantsetra," in the north, Raymond Randriatahina, an official with the national disaster management agency, told AFP.

The category three tropical cyclone barrelled along the island's east coast, around 200 kilometres (125 miles) from land, bringing gusts that reached 250 kilometres (155 miles) an hour.

Around the capital Antananarivo homes and rice fields were flooded and 650 people were forced to move to tents provided by rescue teams.

UN agencies reported "no major damage in the north-east" of the country, which was hit first by the storm system, which is travelling south.

"But dozen of households living in low lying areas were evacuated last night in Nosy Varika and temporarily sheltered in a school."

With the storm churning the Indian Ocean, the authorities had earlier closed coastal schools and those in the capital.

Madagascar is one the world's islands most vulnerable to cyclones. In the past decade 45 tropical storms have hit.

Cyclone Giovanna and tropical storm Irina last year killed 112 people and affected 90,000.