Thousands lose power but Mauritius escapes 'major damage' from cyclone

Mauritius Central Electricity Board employees attempt to repair a power line in Pointe d'Esny on Feb 2, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

PORT LOUIS, MAURITIUS (AFP) - Thousands of homes were left without power in Mauritius on Wednesday (Feb 2) but the Indian Ocean island nation escaped without "major damage" from a battering by powerful cyclone winds.

Tropical cyclone Batsirai passed within 130km of the holiday paradise, bringing heavy downpours and winds of 120kmh, with a peak of 151kmh recorded in the capital, Port Louis.

Life was brought to a standstill, with public transport cancelled, shops and banks shut, and air and sea travel halted.

At least 7,500 homes were without power after the winds knocked down trees onto electricity lines, according to the local electricity board.

The telephone network was also disrupted but there appeared to be little structural damage.

"Fortunately the cyclone did not pass directly over the island as feared. It passed some distance from the island and did not cause major damage," Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said on national television.

"We will try to get the situation back to normal as soon as possible," he added.

The reopening of schools, closed since November because of the spread of the Covid variant Omicron, could not take place as planned.

"All cyclone (warning) advisories will be lifted around 10pm (2am on Thursday, Singapore time)," said a statement from the weather service.

Members of the public look at strong waves in Saint-Benoit, on the island of La Reunion, on Feb 2, 2022, ahead of the passage of tropical cyclone Batsirai. PHOTO: AFP

The French island of Reunion, which lies about 230km south-west of Mauritius, was on red alert for the likely passage of cyclone Batsirai overnight.

In 2007, two people were killed in Mauritius and nine hurt in Reunion when a cyclone hit the islands.

Tropical storms and torrential rains have also wreaked havoc in 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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