Two missing after giant wave lashes island

14th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

SAINT-DENIS-DE-LA REUNION, Reunion, May 14, 2007 (AFP) - Freak waves devastated parts of the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion where two fishermen were missing Sunday after their boat capsized the previous evening.

SAINT-DENIS-DE-LA REUNION, Reunion, May 14, 2007 (AFP) - Freak waves devastated parts of the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion where two fishermen were missing Sunday after their boat capsized the previous evening.

The giant waves lashed the southern port of Saint Pierre on Saturday evening sending several piers crashing down and flooding homes along the coastline. Five families had to be evacuated from their homes.  

Many locals said the waves were worse than the tropical cyclone Gamede which killed one person in Mauritius and injured nine in Reunion in February.

The February victims had ignored official warnings on going out while Cyclone Gamede was in the vicinity.

France's meteorological office said Saturday's waves, estimated at 11 metres (36 feet) in some places, came from the south and added that it was a "recurring phenomenon in winter" in the southern hemisphere.

Two fishermen brothers, both in their fifties, were still reported missing after their boat broke into two and capsized, according to a witness, who said he saw them battling in the water after their vessel went down.

Three coastguards who went out to sea on Saturday evening had to be rescued themselves by a police vessel as their rubber dinghy could not return to the port.

"It was 9:30 pm when a giant wave crashed into my place," said Frederic Beaucourt, owner of the Bora Bora restaurant on Saint Pierre's beachfront.

Beaucourt said the chairs and tables were toppled by the wave and all his clients fled his establishment, which has a commanding view of the sea, in panic.

"Nobody settled their bills," he lamented.

In the fishing colony of Terre Sainte, Michele Ivaha, the owner of a boarding house had to evacuate about six of her guests in haste.

"The biggest wave landed on Sunday morning," she said, adding that the force of the water pushed open her main door, indundating all the rooms.

"It's a catastrophe," she repeated over and over again.

An elderly man in neighbouring Saint-Louis said the storm was the worst in living memory.

"I have never seen anything like this, even during the Dina and Gamede cyclones," he said, referring to the cyclones which hit Reunion in 2002 and February.

"We heard a deafening noise at one in the morning," said Robert Mardelle, who lives in the Saint Gilles quarter.

"We got up quickly and saw the wave enter the house."

On Sunday, waves of up to four to five metres were seen lashing the western and southern parts of the island. Local authorities have meanwhile banned traffic on the seafront as a precautionary measure.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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