Sailors stranded off Reunion by Cyclone Batsirai saved » Capital News

The cyclone moves away from Reunion © AFP / Richard BOUHET

Saint-Denis de la Réunion (AFP), February 3 – The crew of an oil tanker stranded near the coast of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean after Cyclone Batsirai swept through the area were rescued and brought ashore on Friday, officials said.

“The perilous, very technical and unprecedented rescue operation” of the 11 Indian and Bangladeshi sailors from the Mauritian ship TrestaStar ended in “very unfavorable weather conditions”, indicated the prefecture of the French territory in a press release.

The cyclone is now moving away from the island, regional head of the national weather agency Météo-France Emmanuel Cloppet said on Thursday, after causing power cuts, downing trees and injuring several people, but no major damage. was reported.

The island has been placed on red alert, forcing its 860,000 residents to barricade themselves inside © AFP / Richard BOUHET

But “we are facing the worst weather conditions since the start of the episode,” he warned, with winds of up to 150 kilometers per hour still battering the island.

French overseas minister Sébastien Lecornu said the tanker was traveling empty and ruled out any risk of serious maritime pollution.

The French island was placed on red alert as the cyclone approached on Wednesday, forcing its 860,000 residents to barricade themselves inside, with the eye of the storm passing nearly 200 kilometers (120 miles) from shore early Thursday.

But that alert was lifted at 9 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Friday, authorities said, while remaining cautious about the dangers posed by the cyclone.

The storm was then 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of the island, moving at a speed of 12 kilometers per hour.

– Risks of flooding –

The lifting of the alert “does not mean a return to normal,” said the island’s top official, Jacques Billant, calling on residents to remain vigilant as several rivers remained at risk of flooding due to heavy rains.

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The cyclone caused power cuts, felled trees and injured several people, but no major damage was reported © AFP / Richard BOUHET

“The consequences of the passage of the cyclone will still present dangers for the population.”

He said travel was still discouraged as emergency services worked to clear roads and restore electricity, telephone networks and water supplies.

Access to the island’s main coastal road, which connects the capital Saint-Denis to the other towns on the island, remains cut off.

Earlier, Billant reported 12 people injured ashore by the storm, including 10 with carbon monoxide poisoning, a firefighter electrocuted in a rooftop fire and another injured after falling from a roof.

Many across the island suffered water and electricity cuts.

The island is regularly threatened by tropical cyclones. One caused heavy flooding in 2018, while the last devastating cyclone to hit the island came in 2007, killing two people and causing extensive damage.

After passing Reunion, Batsirai is expected to hit the east coast of Madagascar in southern Africa by the end of the week, Météo-France predicts, potentially at the level of an “intense tropical cyclone” which could have a “major” impact. for the region.

Other tropical storms and torrential rains have wreaked havoc across southern Africa in recent days, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Tropical Storm Ana claimed the lives of 86 people in Mozambique, Madagascar and Malawi last week.

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