Flooding as storm hits Réunion and heads for Mauritius

Torrential rain and flooding have hit Mauritius and the French territory of Réunion, in the Indian Ocean, as Cyclone Belal crosses the islands.

One person was killed in Réunion, where the population of some 860,000 people was ordered to shelter at home, but authorities said the eye of the storm had avoided the island.

Around a quarter of households on the island had no electricity on Monday.

Officials on Mauritius say the storm will pass to the south on Tuesday.

Authorities in Réunion had raised the storm alert level to violet, the highest level, as the cyclone approached the island.

That alert level banned even police and rescuers from leaving shelter. The level was later dropped to red, allowing authorities to assess the damage and offer aid to those affected.

French President Emmanuel Macron posted on social media on Sunday that people on Réunion should “be careful, stay at home”.

Despite the dire warnings, Réunion appears to have been spared the worst of the cyclone, as the eye of the storm passed the island by. Jerôme Filippini, the region’s prefect, said the cyclone had not had the “cataclysmic character” initially feared.

The one person confirmed dead was said to be homeless. Authorities said they had refused emergency accommodation.

The trajectory of the storm indicated it was heading for neighbouring Mauritius on Tuesday. The country’s meteorological service said a cyclone warning level three out of four was in place ahead of the storm making landfall.

“On this trajectory, Belal is dangerously approaching Mauritius,” the office said in a statement.

The storm has already brought driving rain to Mauritius, with pictures and video posted to social media showing vehicles being submerged or washed away.

Ahead of the cyclone passing to the south of the island the UK government’s Foreign Office has advised tourists to follow the guidance of local authorities – which includes staying indoors.

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