Residents of France’s Réunion island told to brace themselves for ‘very dangerous’ storm

Residents of France’s Réunion were warned by authorities to stay indoors on Monday after a devastating storm, Cyclone Belal, battered the Indian Ocean island with hurricane-force winds the day before.

Réunion is one of France’s overseas territories across the world, home to nearly 900,000 people. The island has been placed under a purple cyclone alert, the highest-level storm warning, from early Monday, as residents were urged to seek shelter, stock up on food and water and stay indoors for 36 hours – until Tuesday morning.

Emergency services are also observing the same strict lockdown, and the island’s main airport suspended operations on Sunday afternoon.

Only one person so far died when the devastating tropical storm hit the island on Sunday. According to authorities, it was a homeless person who had not found shelter from the storm.

On Sunday, 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 last cyclone to hit Réunion was in 2014, but weather forecasters have compared the current storm with the one that hit the island in the 1960s.

The whole island will be affected,” Meteo France forecaster Céline Jauffret said.

Prefect Jérôme Filippini, the island’s top government administrator, warned of possible flood surges at levels unseen for the past 100 years.

According to Meteo France, the storm’s winds could exceed 200 km/h on the coast of the island and 250 km/h in the highlands. On the coast, Meteo France expects possible 15-metre tall waves on Monday.

The weather service also warned that the eye of the storm could pass directly over or close to the island on Monday with “a strong probability.”

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