15 Feb 2005

Samoa and the Cook Islands brace for two cyclones

2:09 pm on 15 February 2005

Samoa and the Cook Islands are bracing themselves as two cyclones continue on their paths towards both countries.

On its current path, Cyclone Olaf is predicted to directly hit Samoa midday tomorrow with winds at its centre of 200 kilometres an hour, and gusts of up to 270 kilometres an hour.

A forecaster at the New Zealand Met. Service, Mark Pascoe, says if there's a direct hit, Samoa can expect phenomenal seas of up to 15 metres, flooding in low lying coastal areas and the extreme winds.

"We are expecting damaging gale force winds in Samoa tonight, rising to destructive storm force winds sometime tomorrow morning. And, increasing to very destructive hurricane force winds from around the middle of tomorrow."

Samoa's Meteorology office has just issued national warnings for people to be prepared.

Its chief executive officer, Mulipola Ausetalia, says they believe the winds will hit the northern island, Savaii first, and that at this stage, it will be a big cyclone.

It's now in effect. The arrival of Cyclone Olaf, Tropical cyclone Olaf, has now been confirmed, and everybody has to be prepared at this stage. There's no way its going to be diverted.

American Samoa is also preparing.

Our correspondent, Monica Miller, says people are boarding up their houses, the canneries will be closed for the next two days, and the department of education is allowing students and teachers to leave school early today.

This is to allow students and teachers to go home and help with preparations to protect their homes. And, they believe there won't be any school tomorrow. Also, boat owners have been asked to go down to the docks and moor their boats.

Meanwhile, a hurricane wind force warning is in place for Aitutaki, Atiu, Mitiaro, Mauke and Manuae in the Cook Islands as Cyclone Nancy, with winds of more than 200 kilometres per hour at its centre, moves in a south-easterly direction.

On its current track, it's expected to be 75 kilometres east of Aitutaki overnight.

Chief inspector John Tini at the National Emergency Operations centre says weather forecasts are being broadcast by radio to alert people.

Also, at the same time, issuing out warnings to prepare to tie things down, and just to be mindful that there is a tropical cyclone out there and its direction of travel is not yet certain and just to keep alert.

Chief inspector John Tini.