Cyclone Tomas Hits Northern Fiji

Statistics

Tropical Cyclone Tomas battered Fiji’s northern islands on Monday evening with gusts of up to 275 km/h and heavy rain, but weather officials had not received immediate reports of damage. The cyclone was reported to be generating waves up to 7.2 meters high.

The Category 4 storm is the second-most destructive on a five-point scale. As it heads southeast, it is expected to sideswipe the main island, Viti Levu. The South Pacific nation’s capital, Suva, is on that island.

“The closest it will come is 200 km to the east of Suva,” said Alipate Waqaicelua, forecaster for the Nadi Tropical Cyclone Centre. (CNN)

Still, the storm inundated the capital with heavy rain and strong winds.

The Damage

The head of Fiji’s Disaster Management Office, Pajillai Dobui, told local radio that Cyclone Tomas was likely to be the most powerful storm in seven years.

Yesterday, over five thousand people were evacuated from their coastal homes on Vanua Levu, as high waves flooded homes and damaged trees and power lines. Dobui says communication has been lost on the islands like Teveuni and the Lau group, where the storm is headed. “It’s passing the area that is not that populated and not really well developed so of course it is going to be minimal in that place,” Dobui said. (Radio New Zealand International)

Mobile and landline phones have also been disrupted by the high winds.

Authorities imposed a nighttime curfew. Schools have been ordered closed till Thursday, and banks were shuttered till Tuesday, said resident Moses Waqavonovno.

“Squatter houses have been blown away in the gusting winds,” he said. “The stronger structures will take a hard hitting tomorrow.” (CNN)

The storm is forecast to intensify and shipping has been warned to stay away; a night-time curfew is in operation.

All major airlines servicing the destination from Australia and New Zealand canceled services on Monday but full services were expected to be resumed Tuesday. All domestic inter-island air services to Savusavu, Taveuni, Kadavu, Lavuka, the Lau Group, Mana Island and Malololailai have been canceled until further notice.

In instances where electricity had been shut down for safety reasons, most resorts and hotels were maintaining their own power via generators.

All resorts in the region have been on full alert since Friday and are fully equipped with food, water, emergency medical supplies and communication equipment.

Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) said gusts had caused havoc across the north of the country. Power has been disrupted and roofs torn off by the wind.

“You can see trees swaying and likewise the electrical wires and cables that are running between the poles,” an official in the northern region, Inia Seruiratu, told state radio. (BBC)

There were no early reports of injuries, but officials said a woman was swept away in heavy sees as the storm approached. Tourism Fiji says to date it has not received any reports of tourists being endangered or that the tourism plant was suffering structural damage. Tourism Fiji CEO Josefa Tuamoto said his Nadi-based team was remaining in regular contact with resort and hotel operators on Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Savusavu, the key tourist areas in the north-eastern area of Fiji.

Dobui says they won’t know what damage has been caused on these islands until tomorrow.

Smaller islands are expected to be badly hit by winds, heavy rains and high seas. Communication has already been lost with several smaller islands.

The cyclone was said to be moving slowly, increasing the potential for damage. It is expected to be 190 km east of Suva by 3 p.m. Tuesday, as it drifts towards Viti Levu.

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