Tropical Cyclone Belal in the southwest Indian Ocean •

Tropical Cyclone Belal in the southwest Indian Ocean

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features Tropical Cyclone Belal located to the east of Madagascar in the southwest Indian Ocean.

On January 14, Belal intensified to the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds reaching at least 160 kilometers per hour. The next day, it made landfall on the French island of Réunion with winds near 170 kilometers per hour. 

Mauritius, located about 140 miles northeast of Réunion, also experienced high winds and heavy rainfall as the cyclone passed south of the island.

Tropical Cyclone Belal caused widespread damage, including severe flash flooding in Mauritius, particularly in its capital, Port Louis. Cars were washed down streets that looked like rushing rivers. According to ABC News, motorists who had escaped from submerged cars were seen being pulled to safety by others.

In Réunion, the cyclone led to at least one death. Intense rainfall and powerful winds left about a quarter of homes without electricity on the island.

The authorities in Réunion issued the highest storm alert (purple), and officials in Mauritius raised their warning to level three, the second-highest alert in their system.

“Cyclone season in the southwest Indian Ocean runs from around late-October to May, with activity peaking in mid-January and again from mid-February to early March,” said NASA.

“Belal is the basin’s second and strongest system so far in the 2023-2024 season. Last season, the unusually long-lived Tropical Cyclone Freddy thrashed Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique.”

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

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