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Floods hit Mauritius as tropical cyclone approaches

Port Louis, Mauritius | January 16, 2024, Tuesday @ 07:37 in World » INDIAN OCEAN | By: AFP | Views: 4355
Floods hit Mauritius as tropical cyclone approaches

A photo shows damages and boats in a marina after the passage of cyclone Belal in Saint-Paul, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on January 15, 2024. Hundreds of thousands of people in La Reunion hunkered down in their homes under a strict lockdown on January 15 as a devastating storm that has already left one dead ripped along its north coast. (Photo by Richard BOUHET / AFP)

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(AFP) - Heavy flooding hit Mauritius on Monday as a tropical cyclone closed in on the Indian Ocean island nation after battering the French overseas territory of Reunion.

Images posted on local media showed numerous cars in the capital Port Louis submerged under a brown deluge of floodwater or piled up on the street, as torrential rains lashed the city.

The authorities in Mauritius have warned that Cyclone Belal -- which has already led to one death in Reunion -- posed a "threat" to the remote paradise island.

The international airport announced it would be closed from 4:30 pm (1230 GMT) until further notice, while banks, government offices and other private businesses shut their doors and sent staff home.

The Mauritius Meteorological Services (MMS) said in a statement that a class 3 cyclone warning (out of four levels) was in force and advised the public to stay in a safe place, with "torrential rain conditions" expected in the coming hours.

It said that at 4:00 pm Belal was about 130 kilometres (80 miles) west-southwest of Le Morne, which lies on the southwest of the island, and was moving east-southeast at a speed of about 14 kilometres an hour.

- 'My car was carried away' -

"On this trajectory, Belal is dangerously approaching Mauritius and it represents a threat for Mauritius," MMS said.

An AFP correspondent said rains had caused havoc in Port Louis and other areas including St Jean to the south of the capital.

"When the government closed offices today at 12:30 pm, it created a big panic. Many did not find their cars," said a bank employee, who identified himself by his first name Rouben.

"My car was carried away 500 metres by rainwater," the 50-year-old said.

"This is the first time in my life that I've seen this."

The education ministry said schools and other academic institutions would remain closed on Tuesday.

"The radius of cyclonic winds is likely to cross the southern part of the island and Belal is expected to pass at its closest distance of 70 km to the south of the island early tomorrow (Tuesday) morning," the MMS said.

"Heavy rainfall will cause water accumulations and flooding in several places," it added, warning of a storm surge and inundation along low-lying areas near the coastline.

Mauritius, a country of almost 1.3 million people, is a magnet for tourists attracted to its stunning white beaches and crystal-clear waters.

About a dozen storms or cyclones occur each year in the southwest Indian Ocean during the November-April season.

In February last year, Mauritius was lashed by heavy rains and high winds from Cyclone Freddy, which caused a wave of death and destruction in southeastern Africa including Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar.

© Agence France-Presse

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