Strong cyclone hits Reunion island

2014-01-02 19:15
A cyclonic swell sweeps a pier on in Saint-Gilles, in the French La Reunion overseas island. (Richard Bouhet,  AFP)

A cyclonic swell sweeps a pier on in Saint-Gilles, in the French La Reunion overseas island. (Richard Bouhet, AFP)

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Le Port - A cyclone packing winds of 150km/h hit the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion on Thursday, lashing the coast with huge waves and leaving thousands of homes without power.

Eight people were hurt: one seriously and eight with slight injuries. All had been repairing their roofs or homes, damaged by the strong winds of cyclone Bejisa as it approached the island.

The person who was seriously injured received medical care and is not in a critical condition, local officials said.

State-run power supplier EDF said about 100 000 households on La Reunion - which is on red alert - had no electricity.

About 80 000 homes in seven of the island's 24 districts were without running water.

Waves more than 8m high lashed the coast and were expected to get even higher during the course of the day.

Several trees and traffic lights were uprooted on the island. Residents had earlier been advised to stock up on emergency rations, water as well as batteries and candles.

200km/h later

The French weather service predicted that Bejisa would pack winds of up to 200km/h later, adding that they had already exceeded 150km/h.

Its eye was about 75km in diameter, according to weather service Meteo France. But the eyewall - where the greatest wind speeds occur - was expected to brush the coast.

The deputy mayor of the western town of Saint-Leu ordered those living near the seashore to leave their homes and take shelter further inland as residents braced for more havoc.

"The cyclone has not even struck and yet it has caused so much damage," said a resident from the western town of Saint-Gilles.

"I don't know what will happen when it's over us."

Reunion suffered heavy damage in 2002 due to cyclone Dina, which claimed six lives and caused widespread flooding.

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