Severe cyclone bearing down on South Pacific islands

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 30 Dec 2001
AUCKLAND, Dec 30 (AFP) - A cyclone, named Waka, formed Sunday between Samoa and Fiji and appeared to be on course for the Kingdom of Tonga, the Honolulu-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center warned.

Satellite imagery showed the centre of Waka to be 370 kilometres (230 miles) west of the Samoan capital of Apia, near the French island of Wallis, at about 0000 GMT.

It was moving almost due south with its current course projecting it to hit the low-lying Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa on Tuesday. It was also expected to pass over Fiji's Lau Group of islands.

Forecasters were expecting the cyclone to produce winds of up to 185 kilometres per hour (100 knots) with gusts of 231 kilometres per hour (125 knots) and 3.6-metre (12-foot) seas.

The Center warned US Navy ships to stay out of a wide area of ocean including around much of Fiji, Samoa and all of Tonga.

Fiji's director of meteorology, Rajendra Prasad, said they expected Waka to be the most severe cyclone to hit Fiji in a decade.

Their service was warning of rain and increasing wind to the eastern part of Vanua Levu island, Tavueni and Lau.

Samoans, meantime, were being warned of damaging gale force winds and rain and thunderstorms along with heavy swells and the "possibility of sea flooding" and "very rough seas".

mjf/br AFP

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 12/30/2001 00:18:55

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