Cyclone Belal: in Reunion, access to electricity, water or communications has not returned to normal

A few days after the passage of Cyclone Belal, which caused the death of four people without causing the feared damage, several tens of thousands of people still do not have access to electricity, water or communications, announced the prefecture on Friday January 19

Cyclone Belal: in Reunion, access to electricity, water or communications has not returned to normal

A few days after the passage of Cyclone Belal, which caused the death of four people without causing the feared damage, several tens of thousands of people still do not have access to electricity, water or communications, announced the prefecture on Friday January 19.

The winds were violent during the passage of the cyclone, with gusts of up to 217 km/h at Piton Maïdo, according to Météo-France. The falling trees and branches that they caused severely damaged the electricity network. At the end of the red alert on Tuesday, 150,000 homes were without electricity. At midday on Friday, this was still the case for 15,000 of them. According to Dominique Charzat, director of EDF Réunion, it will take around a thousand interventions and “a few days” to restore power everywhere.

Electrical problems also have consequences on the water supply. As of Thursday evening, 56,000 homes, or 7% of the population, still had no tap water, according to prefect Jérôme Filippini. Still not having the results of the analyses, the regional health agency recommends using bottled water for human consumption, or boiling tap water for at least thirty minutes to make it drinkable.

The agricultural sector impacted

The island's electricity production was also affected by the cyclone. The Rivière de l’Est hydraulic power station was heavily damaged. After the first assessments, EDF plans to carry out work on the installation for several months. As a result, EDF has activated the orange “electricity weather” vigilance and calls on residents to pay attention to their consumption in the evening, during peak consumption.

Rainfall and winds have also had a serious impact on the island's agricultural sector. According to Jérôme Filippini, the damage assessment is underway, but the first elements show damage widely distributed across the island, particularly in the fruit and vegetable sector.

For Frédéric Vienne, the president of the local chamber of agriculture, "we already know that [the losses] will be greater than those of Bejisa", the cyclone which struck Reunion at the beginning of January 2014. At the time, the Losses had been estimated at more than 40 million euros, he recalls.

As of Tuesday, the chamber of agriculture, the association of mayors and the departmental council requested urgent recognition of the state of natural disaster for the whole of Reunion given that, according to Frédéric Vienne, "there is no a single area of ​​the island, nor a single agricultural sector that was not impacted.” The prefect announced Thursday evening that the decree could be published “Sunday or Monday” in the Official Journal.