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Cyclone dumps heavy rains on Mauritius en route to Madagascar

Main airport, banks and beaches closed.
Port Louis, City of Mauritius, in dryer times. Image: Shutterstock

Mauritius closed its main airport, banks and beaches as it braced for the effects of a severe cyclone that’s brought heavy rains and strong winds to the Indian Ocean island nation.

Wind speeds reached 133 kilometres per hour and parts of the nation received 118.5 millimetres of rain as Tropical Cyclone Batsirai swirled north of the country, the Mauritius Meteorological Services said in a statement. The storm will pass about 130 kilometres north of Mauritius as it drifts westward toward the much bigger island of Madagascar, where it’s expected to make landfall as an intense tropical cyclone on February 5, according to forecasts from Meteo France.

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport — the main gateway for tourists heading to attractions such as Mont Choisy beach and Le Pouce mountain — was shut on Tuesday night. The Port Louis-based Stock Exchange of Mauritius is not operating, while banks have closed their branches and shut down their ATMs, according to official statements.

The impact on Madagascar, still dealing with damage from Tropical Storm Ana that caused dozens of deaths last month, could be significant, with heavy rains over the southern half of the country, Meteo France said. Madagascar’s government warned that ocean swells could reach 10 meters upon landfall and has already cautioned against going out to sea.

The steep, rugged mountains along Madagascar’s eastern coastline will exacerbate the risk of increased rainfall as well as flash-floods and mudslides, South African Weather Service said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

The southern half of Madagascar has been facing its worst drought in 40 years.

East Africa’s coast was hit by one of the worst storms ever in 2019, when Cyclone Idai caused a humanitarian crisis in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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