13 Mar 2003

Two cyclones strengthen near Tonga and New Caledonia

4:53 pm on 13 March 2003

Two tropical cyclones which have been impacting on Pacific countries this week, are continuing to strengthen.

Cyclone Eseta is now buffeting Tonga and if it continues on its current path, it will be move to an area south of Nuku'alofa.

At its centre, Eseta is forecast to have average winds of 176 kilometres an hour, with momentary gusts to 250 kilometres an hour.

Damaging gale force winds of up to 80 kilometres an hour strengthening to destructive storm force winds of 90 kilometres with momentary gusts to 130 kilometres are forecast for the main Tongan island, Tongatapu.

Widespread flooding is expected throughout much of Tonga.

Meanwhile, Cyclone Erica is expected to pass close to New Caledonia.

It currently has winds of 200 kilometres an hour at its centre with gusts to 212 kilometres an hour.