Neels Blom Writer at large

The tropical cyclone Berguitta raging in the Indian Ocean has forced South African Airways (SAA) to cancel its flights to and from Mauritius’s Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.

SAA operates a daily flight to Mauritius and two flights a day on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The island is a popular holiday destination for South Africans.

AccuWeather meteorologist Adam Douty is reported as saying the cyclone is expected to make landfall on Mauritius and Reunion, about 200km to the west.

He said if the system maintained its strength or gained any strength it would probably result in widespread life-threatening conditions across Mauritius and Reunion.

Wind and rain was expected to increase on Mauritius on Tuesday and on Reunion of Wednesday. It is expected to start easing on Thursday evening.

The storm is classified as a tropical cyclone based on the southwestern Indian Ocean scale, which is equal to a category two hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. Winds of up to 160km/h are expected, which could cause structural damage to buildings, down trees and cause widespread power outages.

A direct hit from the cyclone would bring the most destructive winds right over the island of Mauritius, said Douty.

Wind and rain would begin to increase across Mauritius on Tuesday night as the cyclone approached.

"The storm will batter the island with the most widespread damaging winds and flooding rains on Wednesday and Wednesday night," said the AccuWeather senior meteorologist.

SAA said it would provide assistance to all SAA-ticketed customers via any SAA call centre, city travel office or dedicated travel agent.

The airline said passengers could rebook on another SAA flight for a later date at no extra charge, subject to availability of the same booking class.

Earlier in January, Cyclone Ava led to the deaths of 36 people in Madagascar. Berguitta is expected to pass well to the east of Madagascar.

Business Day