Cyclone Belal Approaches, Triggering Severe Flooding in Mauritius

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Heavy flooding struck Mauritius on Monday as a tropical cyclone approached the Indian Ocean island nation following its impact on the French overseas territory of Reunion.

Images shared on local media depicted numerous cars in the capital Port Louis submerged under a brown floodwater or piled up on the street due to torrential rain.

The authorities in Mauritius have issued a warning about Cyclone Belal, which has already caused one fatality in Reunion, stating that it poses a “threat” to the remote paradise island.

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

The Mauritius Meteorological Services (MMS) has released a statement stating that a class 3 cyclone warning (out of four levels) is currently in force and has advised the public to find a safe place, as “torrential rain conditions” are expected in the upcoming hours.

The MMS has reported that, as of 4:00 pm, Belal was approximately 130 kilometres (80 miles) west-southwest of Le Morne, located on the southwest coast of the island, and is moving east-southeast at a speed of around 14 kilometres per hour.

‘My car was carried away’

“According to this trajectory, Belal is dangerously approaching Mauritius and poses a threat to the country,” warned the MMS.

An AFP correspondent observed that the heavy rain had wreaked 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 panic. Many people couldn’t find their cars,” said a bank employee named Rouben.

The 50-year-old added, “My car was carried away 500 meters by rainwater. This is the first time in my life that I’ve witnessed such an event.”

The education ministry has announced the closure of schools and other academic institutions for 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 declared.

“Heavy rainfall will lead to water accumulations and flooding in various areas,” it further stated, cautioning about a storm surge and inundation in low-lying regions near the coastline.

Mauritius, a country with an approximate population of 1.3 million people, is renowned for its beautiful white beaches and crystal-clear waters, attracting a significant number of tourists.

During the November-April season, the southwest Indian Ocean typically experiences approximately a dozen storms or cyclones.

In February of last year, Mauritius endured heavy rains and high winds from Cyclone Freddy, which caused a wave of devastation and loss of life in southeastern Africa, including Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar.