Mauritius mopping up after storm Belal wreaks havocTue, 16 Jan 2024 17:22:19 GMT

Mauritius was on Tuesday assessing the damage wrought by tropical storm Belal as it rolled away from the Indian Ocean island nation, allowing international flights to resume.Belal has claimed the life of one person in the remote tourist paradise, left thousands without power, flooded buildings and caused traffic chaos, with cars washed away by a deluge of water or piled up on streets.Mauritius Meteorological Services (MMS) had announced early Tuesday it was raising its cyclone alert to the maximum level four but at 2:10 pm (1010 GMT) it said “all cyclone warnings for Mauritius are being waived”.Belal had already battered the French overseas territory of Reunion, leaving three people dead, according to the latest toll given by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. The authorities there announced Tuesday that a red alert had been lifted.The operator of the international airport in Mauritius announced that flights would resume on Tuesday afternoon after closing on Monday as the cyclone approached, leading to cancellations.National carrier Air Mauritius said services had resumed but appealed “to all its passengers not to show up at the airport until they have been informed of the timings of their rescheduled flights.”Tourism is a key contributor to the country’s economy, with visitors wooed by its spectacular white beaches and turquoise waters.More than one million visitors travelled to Mauritius in 2022, according to official figures.- Meteo chief resigns -Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth had criticised the MMS in a televised address to the nation on Monday and announced that its director had resigned.He also confirmed one fatality, saying a motorcyclist had died in a road accident.In its update, MMS warned that seas would remain very rough, with waves of up to seven metres (23 feet) in open waters, and the possibility of isolated thunderstorms.”The public is strongly advised to maintain all precautions and not to venture out at sea and along beaches.”The National Emergency Operations Command also urged the public to remain prudent, particularly in areas at risk of flooding.It said all but one main thoroughfare was now passable, although some roads may be partially flooded or blocked.Some 10,000 families in different regions of the island were still without power on Tuesday afternoon, according to Thierry Ramasawmy, spokesman for the Central Electricity Board.”Everything will be done to restore the electricity supply during the week,” he said. – ‘Share the anger of Mauritians’ -In his address, Jugnauth said he was “sad and angry” at Monday’s events and lashed out at the weather agency.”I have to admit that the country has had a difficult time because of Cyclone Belal,” he said, adding that all decisions made by the government had depended on information from the MMS.”I am surprised that the arrival of the heavy rains was not anticipated by the weather services. I share the anger of many Mauritians. Those responsible will have to assume their responsibilities.”An office worker in Port Louis, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said: “We are not surprised by the passage of the cyclone, however we do not understand how the forecasts from the meteorological services were so imprecise.”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.strs-txw-amu/kjm/ach