New Caledonia braces for Cyclone Beni
Authorities issued a low-level alert Wednesday afternoon as the intensity of the tropical storm increased substantially over the past 24 hours, whipping up huge waves with average wind speeds of 200 kilometres per hour (124 miles) and gusts reaching 300 kilometres per hour at its centre.
The eye of the storm hovered 400 kilometres north of New Caledonia's main island Wednesday, and was moving east-south-east towards the Loyaute islands, which could feel the brunt of the weather within 24 hours.
Beni knocked over pawpaw, banana, coconut and other trees and sent 2,000 people into caves for shelter as it ploughed over the Solomons Islands this week.
The Pacific islands area is frequently battered by storms. Cyclone Ami claimed 14 lives in Fiji in mid-January.
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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 01/29/2003 08:49:34
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