Under the threat of an intense tropical cyclone named Belal, Reunion Island went into cyclonic red alert on Sunday January 14 at 8 p.m. (5 p.m. in Paris), as announced earlier in the day by the prefect of the French island located in Indian Ocean. The Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, went at 7 p.m. to the interministerial crisis management operational center of the Ministry of the Interior, with Gérald Darmanin, to take stock of prevention operations before the arrival of the cyclone, says Matignon.

“My thoughts are with the residents of Reunion Island who are facing a terrible cyclone. Thank you to all our public agents on deck to protect our fellow citizens,” the head of government reacted on X after this meeting.

“Each and everyone will have to confine themselves to a safe place”, until “probably Tuesday morning”, declared during a press conference on Sunday morning Jérôme Filippini, prefect of the department of some 870,000 inhabitants, emphasizing that the situation “could change”. The population was invited by the authorities to stock up on water and food to last several days, to prepare a first aid kit, and to gather supplies to deal with power or water outages during the night. Sunday to Monday and the day of Monday.

Purple alert from Monday morning

The prefecture announced on X on Sunday evening that it was placing the island on purple alert, the highest level, on Monday at 6 a.m. local time (3 a.m. in Paris). This level implies “strict confinement of the entire population, including emergency and security services,” announces a press release from the prefecture. “All traffic is formally prohibited for any reason whatsoever and until further notice,” specifies the prefecture.

During another press conference, Mr. Filippini warned on Sunday evening that the “projected floods will be, for some, comparable to the highest known in a hundred years.” On BFM-TV, the prefect added that he would not “exclude” a move to “purple alert”, which would mean “prohibiting rescue teams, assistance teams, technical services (…) from going out because there would be immediate danger to themselves.”

During the same press conference, the interregional director of Météo-France, Céline Jauffret, recalled that the “threat level is very high”, unprecedented for thirty-five years, citing winds exceeding 200 kilometers. per hour on the coast and 250 kilometers per hour “or more” in the heights of the island, associated with “intense” precipitation, reaching 200 to 300 mm per hour. Ms. Jauffret also confirmed that the eye of the cyclone could pass “over the island”. “The whole island will be affected,” she added.

“Belal is heading towards a cyclone that could mark the history of Reunion Island,” said Sébastien Langlade, head of forecasting at Météo-France La Réunion. “Destructive and devastating winds which can cause great damage,” he warned.

” Stay home “

At 11 a.m. (8 a.m. in Paris), the Belal weather system was less than 300 kilometers north-northwest of the Reunion coast. This meteorological phenomenon “will interest us directly with, if the forecasts are confirmed, a passage of the eye of the system over the island or in the immediate vicinity,” specified Mr. Langlade.

“Be safe, stay home. The State is mobilized at your side,” declared in a message posted on X in the evening, the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, addressing the inhabitants of the island. The Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories, Gérald Darmanin, also called on Reunion Islanders “not to go out, not to move around”. “All means have been mobilized” to help them, added the minister, who assured that the government is following developments in the situation “closely”. On the same social network, the president of the regional council of Reunion, Huguette Bello, also invited “the people of Reunion to exercise the greatest caution”. “A severe test lies before us,” she said.

The Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, must go Sunday at 7 p.m. alongside Gérald Darmanin to the crisis center of the Ministry of the Interior to take stock of prevention operations before the arrival of the cyclone, Matignon announced.

Traffic closed on the Littoral road

The department’s prefecture announced that “the Littoral road [is] closed to traffic in the west-north direction [since] 1 p.m.”, while “traffic [is] also prohibited for two-wheelers in the direction North West “.

For its part, Reunion Island airport was closed to traffic, announced its operator as it approached Belal. “Due to the weather conditions which continue to deteriorate, the airport company informs passengers that La Réunion Roland-Garros airport will be closed today at 4 p.m. [1 p.m. in Paris] until further notice,” said writes the operator in a press release. “Flights for tomorrow [Monday] are canceled,” added the international airport located in the commune of Sainte-Marie, in the north of the island.

Reunion has not been hit by an intense cyclone for ten years and the passage of Bejisa, in the first days of 2014.