Well, for once I think in general freaque waves are out of blue -- unexpected and unpredicted whileas a giant waveis not unexpected. So the report by the Daily News and analysis of dnaindia.com states:
"A freak wave sparked panic in the French Indian Ocean island of Réunion where two fishermen were still missing on Sunday after their boast capsized the previous evening.
"The giant wave lashed the southern port of Saint Pierre on Saturday evening sending several piers crashing down and flooding homes along the coastline. Five families had to be evacuated from their homes.
"France's meteorological office said the giant wave, estimated at 11 metres in some places, came from the south and added that it was a "recurring phenomenon in winter" in the southern hemisphere."
As the last paragraph pointed out that 11 m wave is a recurring phonemenon in winter according to French meteorological office it is not unexpected, then the term "freak wave" used in the first paragraph, which night be attention grabbing, is most likely inaccurate. The International Herald Tribune article used the word "huge" wave for opening paragraph of freak wave and provided with more detailed informations. Even gave the origin of the wave as something called "austral swell." Which may tends to be a little on the "far" fetched side.
I must admit that I have never heard of Réunion Island before I read the news items. The above is a picture of the south coast of the island from travel-images.com. According to the Wikipedia, Réunion 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 thus the currency used is the euro. In fact, due to its location in a time zone to the east of Europe, Réunion was the first region in the world to use the euro. Well, we learn something new each day!
AFP News brief here gave further details about this event along with a picture of the remains of the destroyed fishing boat:
the caption of the picture indicated "an unexpected strong wave coming from Madagascar" which is more conceivable and contradicting to the International Herald Tribune article about Austral swell. The AFP article also starts by using "freak" waves and subsequently described it as "giant" waves.