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Réunion ( or formally La Réunion ; previously Île Bourbon, Tamil: இறியூனியன்) is an island located in the Indian Oceanmarker, east of Madagascarmarker, about south west of Mauritiusmarker, the nearest island.

Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas départements of France. Like the other overseas departments, Réunion is also one of the twenty-six regions of France (being an overseas region) and an integral part of the Republic with the same status as those situated on the European mainland.

Réunion is an outermost region of the European Union and, as an overseas department of France, is part of the Eurozone. Due to its location in a time zone to the east of Europe, Réunion was the first region in the world where the euro became legal tender.

History

Arab sailors formerly called the island Adna Al Maghribain (“The closest of the two western islands”). Chola navy landed in the island during 11th century and called it as Theemai Theevu, which means Island of destruction referring to the presence of volcanoes in the Island, which is inscribed on the Tanjore inscription of 1050AD. The Portuguese are thought to have been the first European visitors, finding it uninhabited in 1635, and naming it after Saint Apollonia.

The island was then occupied by France and administered from Port Louismarker, Mauritiusmarker. Although the French flag was hoisted by François Cauche in 1638, Santa Apollonia was officially claimed by Jacques Pronis of France in 1642, when he deported a dozen French mutineer to the island from Madagascarmarker. The convicts were returned to France several years later, and in 1649, the island was named Île Bourbon after the royal house. Colonization started in 1665, when the French East India Company sent the first twenty settlers.

“Réunion” was the name given to the island in 1793 by a decree of the Convention with the fall of the House of Bourbon in France, and the name commemorates the union of revolutionaries from Marseillemarker with the National Guard in Paris, which took place on 10 August 1792. In 1801, the island was renamed "Île Bonaparte," after Napoleon Bonaparte. The island was invaded by a Royal Navy squadron led by Commodore Josias Rowley in 1810, who used the old name of “Bourbon”. When it was restored to France by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the island retained the name of "Bourbon" until the fall of the restored Bourbons during the French Revolution of 1848, when the island was once again given the name “Réunion”.
Map of Réunion
From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French immigration supplemented by influxes of Africans, Chinese, Malays, and Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. The opening of the Suez Canalmarker in 1869 reduced the importance of the island as a stopover on the East Indies trade route.

During the Second World War, Réunion was under the authority of the Vichy Regime until 30 November 1942, when the island was liberated by the destroyer Léopard.

Réunion became a département d'outre-mer (overseas départment) of France on 19 March 1946. Its département code is 974.

Between 15 and 16 March 1952, Cilaos at the centre of Réunion received of rainfall. This is the greatest 24-hour precipitation total ever recorded on earth. The island also holds the record for most rainfall in 72 hours, at Commerson's Crater in March 2007 from Cyclone Gamede.

In 2005 and 2006 Réunion was hit by a crippling epidemic of chikungunya, a disease spread by mosquitoes which led to more than 200 deaths. According to the BBC News, 255,000 people on Réunion had contracted the disease as of 26 April 2006. The disease also spread to Madagascar and to mainland France through airline travel. Then French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin sent an emergency aid package worth 36 million euros ($57.6M U.S. dollars) and deployed approximately five hundred French troops in an effort to eradicate mosquitoes.

Politics

Réunion sends five députés to the French National Assembly and three senators to the Senatemarker.

Reunion is a French "département". The President of France, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, is its President.

Arrondissements, cantons, and communes

Administratively, Réunion is divided into 4 arrondissements, 24 cantons, and 24 communes. It is a French overseas département as well as a French region. The low number of communes, compared to French metropolitan departments of similar size and population, is unique; most Réunionnaises communes encompass several localities, sometimes separated by significant distances. Réunion is part of the Indian Ocean Commission.

Major communities



Geography

View from satellite.
The island is long; wide; and covers . It is similar to the island Hawaiimarker insofar as both are located above hotspot in the Earth's crust.

The Piton de la Fournaisemarker, a shield volcano on the eastern end of Réunion Island, rises more than above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic nature. It has erupted more than 100 times since 1640 and is under constant monitoring. It most recently erupted on 4 April 2007, when the lava flow was estimated at per day. The Piton de la Fournaise is created by a hotspot volcano, which also created the Piton des Neigesmarker and the islands of Mauritius and Rodriguesmarker.

The Piton des Neigesmarker volcano, the highest point on the island at above sea level, is north west of the Piton de la Fournaise. Collapsed calderas and canyons are south west of the mountain. Like Kohalamarker on the Big Island of Hawaiimarker, the Piton des Neiges is extinct. Despite its name, snow ( ) practically never falls on the summit.

The slopes of both volcanoes are heavily forested. Cultivated land and cities like the capital city of Saint-Denismarker are concentrated on the surrounding coastal lowlands.

Réunion also has three calderas: the Cirque de Salaziemarker, the Cirque de Cilaosmarker and the Cirque de Mafatemarker. The last is accessible only by foot or helicopter.

Economy

Sugar was traditionally the chief agricultural product and export. Tourism is now an important source of income. In 2007 the GDP of Réunion was 18.7 billion US dollars at market exchange rates. The GDP per capita was 23,501 US dollars in 2007 (at market exchange rates, not at PPP), the highest in Africa.

Demographics



Creoles (a name given to those born on the island, of various ethnic origins), make up the majority of the population. Tamils, other Indian, ethnic French Malagasy, African and Chinese are also present. It is not known exactly how many people are in each group since there is a ban on ethnic censuses in France, which applies in Réunion because it is a part of the 1958 constitution. According to estimates, Whites make up approximately one-quarter of the population, Indians including Tamils make up roughly a quarter, and people of Chinese ancestry form most of the remainder. There are also some people of Vietnamese ancestry on the island, though they are very few in number.

Tamil and Gujarati people make up the majority of the Indo-Réunionnaise people; Bihari and other origins form the remainder of the population.

Réunion is very similar in culture, ethnic makeup, language and traditions to Mauritius and Seychellesmarker. Réunion contains most of the same ethnic populations as Mauritius but in different proportions.

Historical population

Year Population Year Population Year Population
1671 90 1830 101 300 1961 349 282
1696 269 1848 110 300 1967 416 525
1704 734 1849 120 900 1974 476 675
1713 1 171 1860 200 000 1982 515 814
1717 2 000 1870 212 000 1990 597 823
1724 12 550 1887 163 881 1999 706 300
1764 25 000 1897 173 192 2006 781 962
1777 35 100 1926 182 637 2007 790 500
1789 61 300 1946 241 708 2008 802 000
1826 87 100 1954 274 370
Official data from INSEE by census or estimate; estimates shown in italics.


Religion

The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism with Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism also represented amongst others.

Language

French is the only official language of Reunion. Although not official, Creole Réunionnais is also commonly spoken by the majority of the population. One can hear it in any administration or office, but education is only in French.

Tamil is also spoken by a considerable portion of the population. Most of the Tamils are bilingual or trilingual in French and Creole. In some schools Tamil is taught as optional language. Due to the diverse population, other languages such as Mandarin, Hakka and Cantonese are also spoken by members of the Chinese community, but fewer people speak these languages as younger generations start to converse in French. The number of speakers of Indian languages (mostly Urdu and Gujarati) is also dropping sharply. Arabic is taught in mosques and spoken by a small community of Arabs. The island's community of Muslims from North Western India and elsewhere is also commonly referred to as Zarab.

Public health

In 2005/2006, Réunion experienced an epidemic of Chikungunya, a viral disease that infected almost a third of the population. See the History section for more details.

Culture

Réunionese culture is a blend (métissage) of European, African, Indian, Chinese and insular traditions.

The most widely spoken language, Réunion Creole, derives from French. However, an official orthography has yet to be agreed upon.

Local food and music blend influences from Africa, India, China and Europe.

Wildlife



Réunion is home to a variety of birds such as the paille en queue. Its largest native land animal is the Panther chameleon (furcifer pardalis). Much of the West coast is ringed by coral reef which harbours, amongst others, sea urchins, conger eels and parrot fish. Sea turtles also visit the coastal waters.

Transport

Roland Garros Airportmarker, handling flights to Madagascar, Mauritius and Europe serves the island. Pierrefonds Airportmarker, a smaller airport, has some flights to Mauritius and Madagascar.

Media

One of the largest newspapers in Réunion is the J.I.R. (Journal de l'Île de la Réunion).

See also



References

External links



Government


General information


Fauna and flora


Tourism
Other



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