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La Reunion, facing cyclone Belal, declares weather emergency

Paris, France

The French island of La Reunion was placed under cyclone alert on Monday morning and citizens were urged to stay inside, cut power, stop using tap water and stay in the safest room of their houses due to a cyclone named Belal.

One homeless person, who was not in a safe shelter, died in the storms, authorities said, while adding that the exact causes of the death were not yet confirmed.

Waves crash onto shore amid Cyclone Belal, in Saint-Denis on Reunion Island on 14th January, 2024 this picture obtained from social media. PICTURE: Instagram @ndsprod33/via Reuters

“Do not go out on whatever pretext, even if the weather is calm. This is probably the eye of the cyclone”, authorities said.

Users on Monday morning posted on social media videos of heavy winds and rainfall, while the actual damage caused by the cyclone hitting the shores of the island wasn’t immediately clear.

Under the so-called violet alert, France’s most serious, even emergency services on the island – in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar – were not allowed to leave their bases from 6am.

The alert was lowered to red from 1pm local time, enabling first responders to resume their work while people were still urged to stay inside.

A total of 100,000 customers were without electricity and 37,000 people were without water due to precautionary cuts, Reunion Prefect Jerome Filippini told franceinfo radio, adding that the number of affected households was likely to rise.

According to Meteo France, the storm is expected to reach its peak on Monday, with speeds of around 200 kilometres per hour at low altitudes, and 250 kph in inhabited areas located higher up the island.

Cyclonic sea waves of up to 12to 15 metres are also expected.



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