Fiji braces for cyclone, flights cancelled
Canberra, December 17, 2012
The Pacific island nation of Fiji was bracing for its biggest cyclone in 20 years on Monday after the same storm hit nearby Samoa late last week, destroying houses and killing four people around the capital, Apia.
Tourist resorts on many of Fiji's palm-fringed islands have been evacuated and authorities have set up more than 60 evacuation centres, warning people to take shelter ahead of Tropical Cyclone Evan.
The category four cyclone is expected to bring destructive winds, rain and possible flooding to areas of Fiji, and pass to the northwestern side of the main Fiji islands of Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, with wind gusts up to 270 kmh (170 mph).
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has ordered public servants to remain at home and has put emergency services on standby. Hospitals and health centres have been closed for all but emergency patients.
Power supplies have also been cut to some areas as a precaution against falling power lines, while banks have been closed. Airlines have cancelled flights to and from Fiji, stranding around 1,900 visitors in the country.
"I cannot stress enough how serious this is. Every Fijian will be affected but we must take preventative steps now," Bainimarama said.
Cyclone Evan is moving at about 22 kmh and is due to pass about 70 km (45 miles) west of Nadi, the site of Fiji's main airport, late on Monday.
Australia and New Zealand have offered support to Fiji ahead of the storm and have search and rescue personnel on standby. – Reuters