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By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 4, 2003, 08:15
Réunion is an overseas departement (departement d'outre-mer, or DOM) of France, located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. As the other DOMs, Réunion is also a region of France and an integral part of the Republic.
Arabian sailors used to call this island Dina Morgabin ("Western island").
The Portuguese discovered the uninhabited island in 1513.
The island was then occupied by the French. In 1642, the King of France Louis XIII named it Île Bourbon. It was renamed Réunion during the French Revolution.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French immigration supplemented by influxes of Africans, Chinese, Malays, and Malabar Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 cost the island its importance as a stopover on the East Indies trade route.
Réunion became an overseas departement of France on March 19, 1946.
Administratively, Réunion is divided into 4 arrondissements, 24 communes, and 47 cantons. It is a French overseas department as well as a French region.
The island is 39 miles (63 kilometers) long, is 28 miles (45 kilometers) wide, and covers 970 square miles (2150 square kilometers). The island is similar to the big island of Hawaii because both are located above hot spots in the Earth's crust.
Piton de la Fournaise, a shield volcano on the eastern end of Réunion Island, rises more than 8565 feet (2611 meters) above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic nature, has erupted more than 100 times since 1640 and is under constant monitoring. It most recently erupted on January 9, 2004.
Piton des Neiges volcano, the highest point on the island at 10069 feet (3070 meters) above sea level, is west of Piton de la Fournaise volcano. Collapsed calderas and canyons are southwest of the mountain. Like Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii, Piton des Neiges is extinct.
The slopes of both volcanoes are heavily forested. Cultivated land and cities like the capital city of Saint-Denis are concentrated on the surrounding coastal lowlands.
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