Réunion (French: Réunion or formally La Réunion; previously Île Bourbon) is an island located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, about 200 km (130 miles) south west of Mauritius, 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. In fact, 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.
Arab sailors formerly called the island Adna Al Maghribain (“The closest of the two western islands”). The Portuguese are thought to have been the first European visitors, finding it uninhabited in 1635, and naming it Santa Apollonia, after Saint Apollonia.
The island was then occupied by France and administered from Port Louis, Mauritius. 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 mutineers to the island from Madagascar. The convicts were returned to France several years later, and in 1649, the island was named Île Bourbon after the royal house.
“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 Marseille with the National Guard in Paris, which took place on August 10, 1792. In 1801, the island was renamed "Île Bonaparte," after Napoleon Bonaparte. The island was taken 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 renamed to “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 Canal in 1869 cost the island its importance 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 destroyer Léopard liberated the island.
Réunion became a département d'outre-mer (overseas department) of France on March 19, 1946. Its département code is 974.
Between 15 and 16 March 1952, Cilaos at the centre of Réunion received 1,869.9 mm (73.6 in) 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, 3,929 mm (154.7 in) at Commerson's Crater in March, 2007.
In 2005 and 2006 Réunion was hit by a crippling epidemic of chikungunya, a disease spread by mosquitoes. 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. The disease led to more than 200 deaths on Réunion. The French government under 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.