Natural disasters in the Seychelles: past and future risks
Seychelles is an increasingly popular tourist destination. Every year, more and more people come to the islands to relax on the marvellous beaches and admire the beautiful nature. They should find out in advance what kind of natural disasters or catastrophes they may encounter. A natural disaster always comes unexpectedly, but knowing about its potentiality, one can prepare for it.
Climatic characteristics of Seychelles
The Seychelles Islands are located in the Indian Ocean, 1600 kilometres off the coast of Africa. They are just south of the equator and the climate is tropical. This type of climate is characterised by small differences in seasonal temperature and humidity. Seychelles is always hot and humid.
But there are differences in the seasons. Seychelles summer, which is December-February, is hotter and more humid. The weather is formed by the north-west monsoon. And from May the south-eastern winds begin to blow, which slightly reduce the temperature and humidity.
The archipelago consists of two types of islands: granite and coral. Granite islands are fragments of an ancient microcontinent, but they do not have high mountains. Coral islands-atolls are flat and insignificantly rise above the water. In the past, they have been sinking and resurfacing, but this happened hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Seychelles is located on the tranquil Mascarene Plateau, where there is very little tectonic activity.
There are forests on the archipelago, even national parks, but high humidity and small area allow avoiding their fires.
Potentially dangerous factors that can cause a natural disaster include:
- Seismic activity. Expressed very weakly, but the probability of an earthquake exists.
- Large length of the coastline. The archipelago is open to strong winds and waves, there is a danger of tsunamis.
- Volcanism. There are no active volcanoes nearby. The danger is minimal.
- Seasonal hurricanes and storms. Seychelles lies out of the path of cyclones, but sometimes even here strong storms are possible.
- Heavy rainfall. Can cause short-term flooding in the streets of cities and towns.
The importance of studying the history of natural disasters
The history of natural disasters is important information to learn before travelling to your chosen country. Knowing the potential dangers that may be awaiting you will not only help you choose the right place, but also the time and season of the year when the threat of being at the epicentre of a natural disaster will be minimal.
For example, knowing that the cyclone season, when strong storms most often occur, starts in October and lasts until April, you can choose a different time to travel to the country.
From this article, you will learn the chronology of natural disasters that have occurred in Seychelles in the past.
No major earthquakes have occurred in the Seychelles region in the last hundred years. The Mascarene Plateau, on which the archipelago is located, is an ancient continental platform and is characterised by an extremely low level of tectonic activity. Therefore, there is no need to fear a possible earthquake in Seychelles.
In recent years, the closest earthquake was on 14 May 1985, north-west of Madagascar. Its magnitude was over 6, and it was felt in Tanzania and Madagascar itself. But in the Seychelles, even such a close quake went unnoticed.
Seychelles seems on the map to be open to all winds and waves, but it is not. In fact, most of the islands of the archipelago are reliably protected from high waves by coral reefs. Thanks to them, strong waves are not feared by locals. Therefore, Seychelles is not so popular with surfers as other islands, because it is simply impossible to catch a big wave here.
However, the threat of tsunami still exists. The most powerful of the killer waves can overcome the coral shield and cause damage to the archipelago. So it happened in December 2004.
26 December 2004
After the strongest earthquake of magnitude 9, which took place near the coast of Sumatra Island, the tsunami passed through many countries of the Indian Ocean basin with a huge wall. The number of dead from this cataclysm exceeded several hundred thousand people. But even this most powerful wave was powerless before the coral barrier of Seychelles.
The height of the tsunami on the archipelago did not exceed 3 metres. The island of Mahé was the hardest hit. There the wave washed away several hundred coastal houses, flooded the runway of the international airport, and demolished the bridge in the capital Victoria. Three people were killed.
Storms and hurricanes
A peculiarity of the Seychelles climate is the formation of cyclones during the local summer. The beginning of the cyclone season falls on the end of September, and it can end in the beginning of May. That is, the danger to be at the mercy of a powerful hurricane or storm exists in the archipelago 6–7 months a year.
Fortunately for the country, most cyclones and the storms caused by them pass southwards. Madagascar and the coast of Africa are more affected.
For example, in April 2021, Cyclone Jobo passed along the Seychelles. It was accompanied by strong wind gusts and hit the coast of Tanzania with all its power. The cyclone caused severe flooding and considerable damage. But Seychelles was not affected.
In February 2013, Cyclone Felling came to the archipelago. It hit the capital island of Mahé hardest, where wind gusts ripped out trees and destroyed about 150 lighthouses. Authorities had to declare a state of emergency.
There are sketchy accounts of an unusually strong cyclone that almost completely destroyed the island of Mahé, but it occurred in 1862 and there are no specific details of casualties and aftermath.
Seychelles has no rivers or inland water bodies that can overflow during heavy rains. Floods on the islands are therefore only associated with temporary flooding of streets and some neighbourhoods during hurricanes and cyclones accompanied by heavy rainfall.
For example, quite severe flooding occurred on the archipelago in May 2020, when a reality TV show was being filmed there. Participants had to move around the site knee-deep in water.
However, there is no significant destruction during such floods, and they do not pose any particular danger to tourists.
The greatest threat to tourists holidaying in Seychelles is posed by seasonal tropical cyclones accompanied by strong, gusty winds and rain. The most powerful cyclones can affect parts of the archipelago, especially the southern islands, and cause some damage and inconvenience.
There is no risk of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions for the archipelago. Tsunamis do not pose any serious danger either, as the coral reefs dampen the killer energy of these waves.
Therefore, you can safely call Seychelles not just a tropical paradise, but one of the safest holiday destinations in the world. And this is despite its location in the middle of the ocean and insignificant relative height of the islands above sea level.
The best time to travel to Seychelles is from May to September. This is when the tropical cyclone season ends, rainfall decreases significantly and sunny days become more numerous. At the same time, the south-east trade winds slightly reduce the air temperature, making it more comfortable.