March 1, 2024

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Shock and anger in Mauritius hit by Cyclone Belal

Shock and anger in Mauritius hit by Cyclone Belal

In pictures, in pictures – Heavy rains caused impressive flooding on the neighboring island of Reunion. The maximum Class 4 alert level triggered on Monday was relaxed on Tuesday morning.

«Another sad and traumatic day for Mauritians», headlines in the Mauritian media this morning L'Express. Cyclone Belal, which was set to hit Reunion Island hard on Monday morning, eventually only hit French Island in the northwest, causing limited damage to operations in the upper reaches of the province. On the other hand, he doesn't let go of his neighbor Maurice, who was hit by heavy rains that she didn't expect. The amount of rainfall caught officials and residents by surprise, creating chaotic scenes.

“We were in for a shock», Julie*, 28, lives in Pereber, north of the island. Like all residents, the young executive went to work Monday morning, relying on the Class 1 alert mandated by authorities. By 10 am, the level had risen to Class 2. Then at 1pm, for Class 3: All Mauritians were called back home. “That was the beginning of hell“, she says. “Class 3 gives 3 hours to go home. I drove back along the coastal road, which was completely flooded, and I got projectiles in my car.»

Streams in the streets

At midday, Mauritius International Airport announced it would be closed until further notice. Banks, government offices and other private businesses closed their doors. Within hours, the streets of the capital, Port Louis, were covered in muddy water, washing cars in their tracks. A 50-year-old man fell and died.

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Jean*, a lawyer in Port-Louis, is trapped in his office. “Panic ensued», says the Mauritian. “Major roads in Port Louis were completely flooded. Everyone was stuck. A colleague tried to leave and had to return to the office to find his car flooded. Damage will be high…», the lawyer is afraid.

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Jean was able to return at 4:30 p.m., and that's when the water started coming off the rails. “What I criticize the authorities is that their press release at 11 am authorizes all government employees to leave work at 12:30 pm. Now, that's the worst moment! This created confusion.Jean reports.

Water up to my chest

On Tuesday, the storm moved to about 210 kilometers southeast of Mauritius. The Mauritius Meteorological Service has significantly lowered the warning level to a maximum of 4, which was raised three hours earlier. After ordering residents to stay at home on Monday, officials relaxed the rules on Tuesday, saying it “He strongly advised the public to follow precautionary measures and stay in safe places».

«We no longer understand what is happening. We're limited by noon, but I think people will stay home to assess the damage and clean up their homes. 31-year-old Virginie says. In his town of Tamarin, in the west of the island, at the junction of a river and the sea, the flood was sudden and very strong. “We were suddenly swept away by the flood. Our garden wall became a waterfall», says a French expatriate who once drank water on the streetUp to the chest».

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The Mauritius Meteorological Services reported winds of 124 km/h in Quatre-Bornes, 122 in Nouvelle-Découverte and 121 km/h in Anguilles. According to local media, around hundreds of vehicles were damaged, much to the consternation of their owners. “3rd class has never been triggered before and people are surprised that we are told to come to work as many have lost their cars», declares Julie.


After Monday's surprise, reactions decrying the government's lack of preparedness have begun to emerge. “Once the Belal storm has dissipated, it is time to demand accountability and determine responsibilities.», opposition leader Xavier-Luc Duval responded in a press release. According to Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jagannath, the authorities made the decisions based on information from the weather station, which did not anticipate the force of the storm. The chaotic management of the event led the Prime Minister to sack the director of the island's weather station, Ram Durmiya. “Heads roll, but not the real decision makers and the ones responsible for yesterday's mess…», exclaims Julie.

Already in 2013, heavy rains caused a national tragedy when 11 people died on the island. An inquiry report pointed to lack of warning from meteorological stations, lack of maintenance of evacuation channels, delay in assistance and poor organization of civil defense to help victims.

The streets of Port-Louis after the first wind on Monday morning.
Private collection.
As Cyclone Belal passed through, cars were washed away by torrential rain in Port Louis.
Private collection.

*First names have been changed.