Indian Ocean island Mayotte on cyclone alert

The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte has been placed on red alert for cyclone Belna
The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte has been placed on red alert for cyclone Belna

Hopes rose Sunday on the small French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, which has been on red alert for the arrival of Cyclone Belna, that a last-minute change of course might limit the damage.

The storm was forecast to make landfall on the island, home to a quarter of a million people, Sunday evening.

But Mayotte's governor Jean-Francois Colombet said the latest forecasts from France-Meteo showed the cyclone beginning to veer off to the south, possibly sparing the island its full force.

Officials in the French overseas department had earlier warned inhabitants to stay indoors and "not go out under any circumstances".

Schools were to be closed on Monday, in part because many were being used as for between 10,000 and 15,000 of the islanders most vulnerable to possible damage caused by Belna.

Most people had respected the official advice to stay indoors and off the streets, Colombet told a local newspaper.

The island's 256,000 inhabitants have also been advised to stock up on drinking water.

After Mayotte, the cyclone was forecast on Monday to hit the neighbouring Comoros archipelago then the island of Madagascar. They issued orange and yellow alerts respectively.

Mayotte's airport has been closed, and the island's roads declared off-limits from Sunday afternoon.

This will be the third to hit the island in 50 years, Colombet said.

The Comoros government announced an orange alert for the island of Anjouan, while the archipelago's other two were placed on a lesser yellow alert.

The authorities called on the population to take the usual precautions: shutter windows and doors, stock up on provisions and prepare to take refuge in mosques, schools or others homes if necessary.

The archipelago was struck by Cyclone Kenneth in April, killing at least three people before it continued on to Mozambique, where it caused widespread damage.

Cyclone Belna is expected to land on Madagascar's northwest coastal region of Boeny on Monday afternoon.

Madagascar's northern tourism island of Nosy Be was also expected to be affected.

The country's transport ministry called on fishermen not to take to the sea because of fierce winds.

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© 2019 AFP

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