The category 4 cyclone was about 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of the northwestern island of Yasawa-I-Rara at midday local time, moving southwest at about 20 kilometers per hour, according to the Fiji Meteorological Service website. Winds at the storm’s center will average 185 kilometers per hour, with some gusts of 270 kilometers per hour, the agency said.
“I cannot stress how serious this is -- every Fijian will be affected,” Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. yesterday. “If the weather forecasters are correct it will affect Fiji in a very damaging way, bringing about destructive winds and flooding.”
Fiji is a 332-island archipelago 3,240 kilometers northeast of Australia. The cyclone season in the South Pacific region runs from November to April and storms sometime cause flooding and landslides.
Air New Zealand canceled today’s return service from Auckland to the Fijian settlement of Nadi, it said in an e- mailed statement. It’s increasing capacity into Samoa to accommodate extra passengers and cargo, it said.
Airlines including Air Pacific, Jetstar and Pacific Sun have canceled all flights out of Fiji today, and Fiji’s Reserve Bank Governor has ordered all commercial banks closed until further notice, the ABC reported today. The cyclone is the strongest to threaten the country in 20 years, it said.
Some areas of Fiji were already without power and experiencing flash flooding, New Zealand website stuff.co.nz reported.
The Australian government said it is monitoring the cyclone and offered assistance to Fiji and Samoa. More than 300,000 Australian tourists visit Fiji every year and Australia is the nation’s largest aid donor, according to a statement from Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s office in Canberra.
New Zealand will give NZ$50,000 ($42,335) in aid to Samoa, including search assistance for missing fishermen, Radio New Zealand reported on its website.
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