• Tebogo Gantsa

Severe Cyclone Berguitta passes through Mauritius, cyclone restrictions relaxed


Tropical cyclone Berguitta has passed the south-west of Mauritius and has now reached the Reunion Island. It oozed 40 kilometres from the coast of Suillac in a south-westerly direction at 10:00 GMT and has wreaked less havoc than expected. The country is yet to announce how much damage the tropical storm has caused in its path.

The Mauritius Meteorological Services saw it as a severe tropical cyclone and issued several periodical warnings and updates.

The severe weather disrupted the flight schedules of several airliners forcing cancellations for trips in and out of the country. South African Airways released a statement advising travellers about flight schedule changes.

“South African Airways (SAA) advises all customers that the adverse weather conditions as a result of the Cyclone Berguitta will affect the following flight schedules to and from Mauritius, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.”

The fights affected are 190, 191, 192 and 193 coming from Mauritius. All flights arrive or depart from Johannesburg. The airline will only assist SAA ticket holders with rebookings not later than 19 January for travels not later than 22 January and will not institute any price changes.

The disruption of travel arrangements into the country will affect its lively tourism industry that has recently recorded steady growth since 2009 with the 2016-2017 period growing by 7.89% amounting to almost 124-thousand new arrivals.

The country’s meteorological services issued warnings to the public advising them about precautions to take during the passage of the cyclone which approached at a speed of 15 km/h. The latest was issued at 13:00 GMT.

“The severe tropical storm Berguitta was centered at about 120 km to the southwest of Le Morne, that is, in latitude 21.3 degrees south and longitude 56.5 degrees east. Berguitta is now moving away at an accelerated speed of about 18 km/h in a south westerly direction. Since the associated active cloud bands have already crossed Mauritius in the afternoon and are now moving away, the risk of having gusts of the order of 120 km/h has considerably diminished,"

"Therefore, the cyclone warning class III has now been waived, and no cyclone warning is now in force in Mauritius. Weather in Mauritius will remain cloudy to overcast with intermittent rain which may be locally moderate in places. Wind will blow from the northern sector at about 35 km/h with gusts which may reach 90 km/h in places but weakening gradually. The public is advised to be very careful on the road due to strong cross winds. Sea will be very rough with swells of the order of 4 metres. The public is strictly advised not to go out at sea. Given the heavy rainfall during the last few days, there are still accumulation of water in certain areas. Rivers and other water courses remain swollen. Ventures in these risky places should be avoided," the update said

Tropical storms are classed according to their severity and the amount of damage they are expected to wreak in their wake. This is based on their wind-speed using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Class 3 cyclones at wind speeds between 165 - 224 km/h are destructive and can wreak havoc to structures and cause power outages. Image weatherunderground.com

Some of the destruction can be seen on social media with fallen trees and powerlines showing the strength of the storm.

The tropical storm forced the Stock Exchange of Mauritius to stop trading owing to its categorisation as a class III cyclone. Through a statement issued on Tuesday 22 an announcement was made with additional information in a communique.

“Given Berguitta is approaching Mauritius starting today, 17/01/2018 and accordingly issuance of “Class 3” warning by the Mauritius Meteorological Services, the Stock Exchange of Mauritius shall be closed until warnings are lifted and there shall be no trading”.

Trading can will resume on Friday 18 since the cyclone warnings have been waived. In the event of another class III warning warning being issued after business resumes the stock exchange will have half an hour to stop trading.

The storm has already reached Reunion Islands causing flooding on the streets.

While class 1 cyclones cause some damage and class 2 causes extensive damage, at 165 - 224 km/h class 3 cyclones cause destruction and can damage roofs, sweep unstable structures and cause power outages.

Cyclone Enawo caused severe flooding and mudslides in March 2017 killing 80. Image: frayintermedia

The area south-east of the Indian Ocean is prone to adverse weather incidents. Last week Cyclone Ava tore through Madagascar on January 5-6 with officials citing 51 dead and about 54-thousand displaced people according to the country’s National Office of Risk and Disaster Management.

Last year Madagascar was a sore cite of devastation after Cyclone Enawo passed through the country killing 58.


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