Reunion Island hunkers down as major storm hitsSun, 14 Jan 2024 16:55:26 GMT

Streets were largely deserted on France’s Reunion Island on Sunday as residents hunkered down in their homes to ride out what authorities said could become a devastating tropical storm.Authorities urged residents of the island in the Indian Ocean to stock up on food and water and remain indoors for 36 hours — until Tuesday morning, saying a red alert would be issued from 8 pm local time. The tropical storm, dubbed Belal, is expected to reach the island, which is home to around 870,000 people, on Sunday night. French President Emmanuel Macron took to social media to urge the residents to stay indoors. “Be careful, stay at home,” he said on X.The last major cyclone to hit Reunion was in 2014.But speaking about the dangers of the current storm, authorities evoked Jenny, a deadly cyclone that battered Reunion in 1962. “We are not going to play heroes, we were told to stay at home,” said Jules Dafreville, who lives in the capital Saint-Denis. “I returned in the middle of the afternoon and I don’t plan to come out before the red alert is lifted on Tuesday morning.” The island’s main airport said it would suspend flight operations on Sunday afternoon. Authorities fear that Belal, currently classified as a “strong tropical storm” will become an “intense tropical cyclone” on Monday as it passes over the island or its immediate vicinity. The Meteo France weather service warned that winds could exceed 200 km/h on the coast and 250 km/h or more in the highlands. “These are destructive and devastating winds that could cause major damage”, said Sebastien Langlade, head of forecasting at Meteo France Reunion.Olivier Blondet, manager of two restaurants and a nightclub in Saint-Denis, prepared his three establishments for the worst.He fixed the sofa on his terrace to the railings and removed blunt objects, he said.”We’re trying to make sure there’s absolutely nothing that can come off the ground and be thrown onto the windows or walls,” he said on BFMTV.In Saint-Denis, around twenty homeless people were taken to a shelter.mah-alv-tg-as/rox