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"Mauritius on High Alert as Cyclone Belal Approaches in the Indian Ocean"
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A tropical cyclone struck the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean on Monday, bringing heavy rain and strong winds that left approximately a quarter of households without electricity and tens of thousands of homes without water.

Nearby Mauritius was also on alert as authorities there anticipated feeling the effects of Tropical Cyclone Belal as it moved through the southwestern Indian Ocean.

Although the highest alert level (purple alert) announced on Sunday had been lifted, residents were advised to remain indoors due to ongoing heavy rains and winds reaching up to 170 kilometers per hour (105 miles per hour) on the island.

While Belal’s intensity appeared to be slightly decreasing, the prefecture of Reunion reported waves as high as 8 meters (26 feet). Many residents experienced disruptions in internet and phone services. Tragically, a homeless person was found dead in Saint-Gilles on the island’s west coast, though the circumstances of the death were unclear.

During the purple alert, people were urged to stay home, and even emergency services were on lockdown until the worst of the weather had passed. French weather forecaster Meteo France stated that Belal reached Reunion in the early afternoon on Monday local time, bringing heavy rains, stormy conditions, violent winds, and rough seas.

Prefect Jérôme Filippini, the island’s top government administrator, warned of potential flood surges at levels not seen in a century, with forecasters fearing the storm could be the most destructive since the 1960s.

Mauritius, located approximately 220 kilometers northeast of Reunion, was also expected to experience the storm’s outer winds.

Cyclones are common in southern Africa between January and March when ocean temperatures in the southern hemisphere are at their warmest, providing fuel for cyclones.

Scientists attribute the increased frequency and intensity of cyclones to human-caused climate change, which has led to more extreme weather events and heavier rainfall associated with cyclones.

In 2019, Cyclone Idai caused devastation in southern Africa, resulting in over 1,000 deaths in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe and causing a humanitarian crisis. The United Nations described it as one of the deadliest storms on record in the southern hemisphere.

Piers Potter

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