The island in the French Indian Ocean has been hit by a devastating tropical storm that forced residents into a 36-hour lockdown.
Residents of French Réunion were warned by authorities to stay indoors on Monday after a devastating storm, Cyclone Belal, hit the Indian Ocean island with hurricane-force winds the day before.
Réunion is one of France’s overseas territories in the world and is home to nearly 900,000 people. The island has been placed under a purple cyclone warning, the highest level of storm warning, since early Monday, as residents were urged to seek shelter, stock up on food and water and stay indoors for 36 hours, until to Tuesday morning.
Emergency services are also observing the same strict lockdown and the island’s main airport suspended operations on Sunday afternoon.
So far only one person has died when the devastating tropical storm hit the island on Sunday. According to the authorities, he was a homeless man who had not found shelter from the storm.
On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “To the inhabitants of Réunion: red alert for Cyclone Belal. Be careful, stay home. The State is mobilizing at your side.”
The last cyclone to hit Réunion was in 2014, but meteorologists have compared the current storm to one that hit the island in the 1960s.
The whole island will be affected,” said Meteo France meteorologist Céline Jauffret.
Prefect Jérôme Filippini, the island’s top government administrator, warned of possible waves of flooding at levels not seen in 100 years.
According to Meteo France, the storm’s winds could exceed 200 km/h on the island’s coasts and 250 km/h in the highlands. On the coast, Meteo France forecasts possible waves of 15 meters high for Monday.
The weather service also warned that the eye of the storm could pass directly over or near the island on Monday with “a strong probability.”