Cyclone Belal hits Reunion Island: at least one dead, purple alert maintained

The powerful cyclone Belal struck Reunion Island on Monday, January 15, 2024, causing the death of one person and significant material damage. The island is under purple alert, the highest level, which means imminent danger. The inhabitants are confined to their homes and the rescue services cannot intervene.

The center of the cyclone passed closest to the island around 10 a.m. local time, with winds of more than 200 km/h on the coast and more than 250 km/h in the heights. Waves of 8 meters on average, reaching up to 15 meters, are expected, along with torrential rains that could cause floods and landslides.

The prefect of Reunion, Jérôme Filippini, announced on BFMTV that a person had been found dead in Saint-Gilles, the first victim of cyclone Belal. He said it was a homeless person. “The circumstances (of the death) are still a bit difficult to determine,” he said.

He also warned that the purple alert level would be maintained at least until Tuesday morning, and urged the population to stay at home. “Even if, at some point, you feel like it’s getting better, stay at home because the weather will be very changeable during the day,” he said.

Cyclone Belal is the most severe cyclone to hit Reunion Island in 10 years, since the passage of Bejisa in early 2014. The prefect even compared it to cyclone Jenny, which killed dozens of people on the island in 1962.

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