Indian Ocean island Mayotte lifts cyclone red alert
A picture taken on December 8, 2019 shows boats and yachts inside the marina of Mamoudzou on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, as Cyclone Belna is expected to make landfall. The small French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte announced a red alert as Cyclone Belna closed in on December 8, threatening the French department of quarter of a million people. The storm was expected to make landfall in Mayotte around 9:00 pm local time (1800 GMT), according to the latest forecasts from Meteo France. A statement from officials in the French overseas department warned inhabitants to stay indoors and "not come out under any circumstances". (Ali AL-DAHER / AFP)
(AFP) - Officials on the small Indian Ocean island of Mayotte said Sunday they had lifted the red alert in place for Cyclone Belna, after it brushed past the French territory.
Officials had told islanders to keep off the roads and stay indoors earlier as they declared a red alert in the expectation that the cyclone would hit the island.
Island officials have not yet said how much damage the storm caused on Mayotte, which is home to a quarter of a million people.
While early forecasts had suggested the cyclone would hit the island full-on, the latest prediction from France-Meteo -- that it would veer further south and miss the island -- proved more accurate, Mayotte's governor Jean-Francois Colombet said.
The cyclone is now 100 kilometres (60 miles) away from the island, but officials still advised islanders to be careful.
Many schools were to be closed Monday because some were being used as emergency shelters for between 10,000 and 15,000 of the islanders most vulnerable to possible damage caused by Belna.
But island officials said that barges linking the different islands would resume Monday.
In the run-up to the arrival of the cyclone, most people had heeded the official advice to stay indoors and off the streets, Colombet told a local newspaper.
The island's 256,000 inhabitants had also been advised to stock up on drinking water.
After Mayotte, the cyclone was forecast on Monday to hit the neighbouring Comoros archipelago then the island of Madagascar. They issued orange and yellow alerts respectively.
Mayotte's airport has been closed, and the island's roads declared off-limits from Sunday afternoon.
This will be the third cyclone to hit the island in 50 years, Colombet said.
The Comoros government announced an orange alert for the island of Anjouan, while the archipelago's other two islands were placed on a lesser yellow alert.
The authorities called on the population to take the usual precautions: shutter windows and doors, stock up on provisions and prepare to take refuge in mosques, schools or others homes if necessary.
The archipelago was struck by Cyclone Kenneth in April, killing at least three people before it continued on to Mozambique, where it caused widespread damage.
Cyclone Belna is expected to land on Madagascar's northwest coastal region of Boeny on Monday afternoon.
Madagascar's northern tourism island of Nosy Be was also expected to be affected.
The country's transport ministry called on fishermen not to take to the sea because of fierce winds.
© Agence France-Presse