South Pacific cyclone intensifies - Tonga at risk

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 31 Dec 2001
AUCKLAND, Dec 31 (AFP) - Tonga was warned Monday that a powerful cyclone was intensifying and would bring "phenomenal seas" and destructive winds.

Cyclone Waka formed Sunday between Samoa and Fiji, close to the French islands of Wallis and Futuna.

The Honolulu-based Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) said at midnight (1200 Sunday GMT) Waka was at 14.2 south latitude, 175.8 west with sustained winds of 167 kilometres per hour (kph) (90 knots), gusting to 204 kph (110 knots).

They warn it will intensify to gusts of 232 kph (125 knots) by 12pm Tuesday (0000 GMT) when it will be over Tongas popular tourist resorts in the Vavau Islands Group.

JTWC said the seas over a wide area between Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will peak at five-metre (15-foot) swells. Many of the islands are low lying atolls.

The latest warning from the Fiji based Nadi Tropical Cyclone Centre said the northern islands of Tonga can expect "very destructive hurricane force winds" and "phenomenal seas (and) very damaging heavy swells".

The capital, Nukualofa on the low lying Tongatabu island in the south, was warned to expect heavy rain and "sea flooding".

In Nukualofa Monday morning it was fine, hot and windy. State-run radio has broadcast a warning for the northern islands but no obvious preparations were underway in the capital for the arrival of Waka.

mjf/nj AFP

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 12/30/2001 16:34:03

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