13 Jan 2011

Cyclone alert widens in Vanuatu and heightened in Loyalty Islands

6:26 am on 13 January 2011

The National Disaster Management Office in Vanuatu says a tropical cyclone has caused some minor damage in the country and the cyclone alert has been widened.

Cyclone Vania is slow moving and is located about 50 kilometres north west of Tanna..

The National Disaster Management Office says a red alert has now been issued for all of Tafea province which means people are advised to stay indoors, avoid the ocean and listen to the radio.

Esrom Molisa from the National Disaster Management Office says gale force winds from Cyclone Vania have already had an impact on the islands of Tanna and Erromango.

"Only minor damage on food crops, like bananas and tree branches, no major damages on houses or buildings. The other thing is they have experienced flooding also in the area of Tanna and Erromango, just overflow of rivers, high levels of water in some of the rivers and low lying areas."

Esrom Molisa says a telecommunications transmitter has also been blown down on Tanna, but it is too early for further reports of damage to have come in this morning.

Fiji Meteorological Service Tropical Cyclone Forecaster Misa Elefunaki says Cyclone Vania has moved at less than five knots in the last few hours.

It's still a Cat 1 system which means we are basically warning for winds of approximately 35 knots close to the centre, but that extends to certain quadrants, mainly the northwest quadrant extending all the way up to the southeast quadrant at a distance of approximately 240 nautical miles. The projection is for Tropical Cyclone Vania to gradually turn into a more southwesterly movement and its going to maintain the southwest movement over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Misa Elefunaki says Cyclone Vania should be in close proximity of the main island of New Caledonia from around midnight tonight.

Meanwhile, the French High Commission in Noumea has upgraded the cyclone warning to orange for the Loyalty Islands, where Vania is expected to hit this afternoon.

This means all businesses and schools have been ordered to stay closed. People are advised to seek shelter or stay indoors.

Boats are to be secured and people are advised to stay away from coastal areas that could be affected by a storm surge.

The main island is still on pre-alert.