Under the threat of an intense tropical cyclone named Belal, Reunion Island has been placed on orange cyclone alert since 7 p.m. (4 p.m. in Paris), Saturday January 13, as announced earlier in the day by Jérôme Filippini, the prefect of the French island located in the Indian Ocean.

“We must take seriously, even very seriously, what is happening,” Mr. Filippini insisted at a press conference, urging the island’s approximately 870,000 inhabitants to “stock up of water and food, to prepare to be self-sufficient for a few hours or a few days, to have your first aid kit”. “We must ask ourselves now [the question of knowing] where you will be sheltered from Sunday evening,” he added.

Belal, which is currently a strong tropical storm, is located a few hundred kilometers north of Reunion and is currently intensifying, said Céline Jauffret, interregional director of Météo-France.

It could become a “very dangerous cyclone accompanied by extreme winds” when it passes near the French island, during the night from Sunday to Monday, according to the meteorological organization.

Wind gusts over 150 kilometers per hour

The orange level is the second of the cyclone alert system, which has four. This means that “a cyclonic event (…) is evolving in the area and represents a danger for Reunion Island within twenty-four hours”, according to Météo-France.

According to the scenario currently favored by Météo-France, “the island is potentially exposed to a major cyclonic impact, with a possibility of devastating winds”.

The meteorological services predict wind gusts of more than 150 kilometers per hour “on the heights of the island”. Swells exceeding 20 feet and heavy rainfall are also expected.

“A direct impact on Reunion Island is not currently excluded, which would involve winds exceeding 220 kilometers per hour in the lower parts [of the island] and reaching 250 kilometers per hour in the upper parts. » of the island, warned Ms. Jauffret.

Leisure centers closed and events canceled

In Reunion supermarkets on Saturday, residents filled their carts with much more bottled water and canned goods than usual, noted an Agence France-Presse correspondent.

During this school holiday period in Reunion, all leisure and reception centers for children and adolescents have been closed from Saturday until further notice. Almost all of the festive events planned between this Saturday and Monday are also successively canceled by the municipalities and other organizers.

At Sainte-Marie International Airport, the flight schedule for Sunday “has been modified and brought forward.”

According to trajectory forecasts on Saturday afternoon, Belal is expected to pass further from Mauritius, where a category 1 cyclone warning has however been issued.

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