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Mauritius halts flights, shuts stock exchange as cyclone Freddy approaches

Mauritius on Monday, February 20, 2023, grounded flights and shut its stock exchange as Tropical Cyclone Freddy approached, posing a “direct threat” to the Indian Ocean island.

Cyclone warning
Cyclone warning. Photo credit: Shutterstock

A Class III cyclone warning was in force in Mauritius, allowing about six hours of daylight before the occurrence of wind gusts of 120 kilometres per hour.

Mauritius, along with other Indian Ocean countries like Madagascar and African coastal nations like Mozambique, is regularly affected by severe storms and cyclones capable of destroying homes, infrastructure and crops.

Its weather service said in a bulletin issued at 1010 local time (0610 GMT) that at its closest distance, Freddy may pass at about 120 km (75 miles) to the north-northwest of the island late in the afternoon, saying it represented a direct threat.

“As Freddy approaches Mauritius, (a) storm surge is likely to cause coastal inundation in risk areas. It is, therefore, strictly advised not to go at sea,” the bulletin said.

The cyclone could pass as close as 120 km to the north-northwest of the island late in the afternoon, the service said.

Authorities on the island of Madagascar – about 1,130 km west of Mauritius towards the coast of Africa – said they were expecting a direct hit by Tuesday evening, between Mahanoro in the east and Manakara in south east.

“Torrential rains… very high to enormous seas… and a significant risk of coastal flooding are particularly to be feared in the localities around the point of impact,” Madagascar’s weather service said.

The government’s disaster management office was sending tents, ropes and chainsaws and other supplies to four districts most likely to be affected, officials added.

The Indian Ocean islands and Mozambique on Africa’s coast have been hit by a string of deadly storms and cyclones that have forced thousands to flee, destroyed buildings and ruined crops.

In January, tropical storm Cheneso killed 33 people in Madagascar.

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