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Updated January 15th, 2024 at 19:05 IST

Tropical Cyclone Belal batters French island of Reunion, Mauritius on high alert

Belal is dangerously approaching Mauritius and it represents a direct threat for Mauritius,” Mauritius’ national meteorological service said.

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Cyclone Belal
A powerful storm bore down packing hurricane-force winds. | Image:AP
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A “very dangerous” tropical cyclone Belal that has battered the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean has forced thousands of residents to evacuate after a 36-hour lockdown. As the Cyclone Belal barrelled its way through the southwestern Indian Ocean, nearby Mauritius was on high alert on Monday. The National Crisis Committee of Mauritius held an emergency meeting to discuss the disaster management mitigation plans. Authorities were reported saying that the cyclone has led to intense downpours and powerful gusts of winds.

“On this trajectory Belal is dangerously approaching Mauritius and it represents a direct threat for Mauritius,” Mauritius’ national meteorological service reportedly said.

A quarter of households were plunged into darkness, as they were rendered without electricity and water. The reunion activated the highest alert level, the purple alert, urging the residents to remain in shelter as the devastating storm passed earlier today. The intensity of Belal appeared to be decreasing, as powerful winds measuring 170 kilometers per hour (105 miles per hour) hit the the island that hosts a population of 860,000 people. Waves reaching as high as 8-meter (26-feet) were recorded, the prefecture of Reunion said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.

Aux habitants de La Réunion :
Alerte rouge cyclone Belal.
Soyez prudents, restez chez vous. 
L’État est mobilisé à vos côtés.

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) January 14, 2024

‘Be careful, stay at home’: French President Macron

The French weather forecaster Meteo France informed the agent that Belal reached Reunion on Monday morning. It brought “heavy rains, sometimes stormy, very violent winds and powerful and raging seas.” The island’s top government administrator, Prefect Jérôme Filippini, was quoted as saying that the storm wreaked by Belal is most destructive since 1960s, and flood surges at previously unseen levels in more than a century were witnessed.

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At least one person was reported dead, as the island’s main airport suspended operations due to the natural calamity. France’s President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “To the residents of Reunion: Cyclone Belal red alert. Be careful, stay at home. The State is mobilized at your side.” The weather forecasters are warning that the eye of the storm might directly cross over in proximity to the island on Monday with “a strong probability.”

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Published January 15th, 2024 at 19:05 IST

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