30 Jan 2003

New Caledonia on maximum alert for Cyclone Beni

4:49 pm on 30 January 2003

Parts of New Caledonia are now on maximum alert as Cyclone Beni moves in a south-east direction at about 25 kilometres an hour.

A warning is also in place for Vanuatu, with the capital Port Vila and southern islands advised to expect destructive storm force winds.

This morning the cyclone was reported about 200 kilometres north of Ouvea in the Loyalty islands land at midday it was northwest of Tanna island.

Beni has average winds of185 kilometres an hour with gusts up to 280 kilometres an hour close to its centre.

A heightened alert has been declared for the New Caledonian mainland.

School holidays camps in the Noumea area have been closed and military reinforcements have been sent to the Loyalty Islands ahead of Beni's arrival.

The cyclone is expected to curve south and then southwest, crossing the Loyalty islands by tomorrow morning before passing close to Noumea.