Cyclone Batsirai unleashed its full force on Madagascar’s eastern coast Saturday night with torrential rains and wind.

The tropical storm’s center landed near Mananjary on the east coast and moved inland across the island.

According to the island’s meteorology section, the cyclone gained strength and blew across the Indian Ocean. The gale-force winds reached speeds of up to 235 km (145 miles per hour).

Batsirai (which means “help” in Shona) is a dangerous storm. Officials have warned that it could cause significant and widespread damage, especially flooding in the east and southeast, as well as the central highlands.

22,000 people were evacuated to schools, churches, and gymnasiums as a precaution. This was especially true around Mananjary on the east coast.

“The wind is increasing in strength and it is raining a lot. The sea is extremely rough. The sea is very rough. Ravahalahy Heninjoa, commander of Mananjary’s gendarmerie, said Saturday.

He said that many trees have been felled by the wind and that electricity was cut on Friday night.

Further inland, Antanarivo, the capital, saw rains before the cyclone, and residents placed sandbags onto their roofs to shield against the wind.

In anticipation of widespread destruction, all land and sea transport was suspended in Madagascar, which is the fourth-largest country in the world.

The National Office for Risk and Disaster Management warned that “almost all regions of the Island are at risk”, warning that the cyclone could threaten nearly 600,000.