28 Dec 2012

New cyclone forming in Pacific

8:59 pm on 28 December 2012

The emergency services in Solomon Islands are warning people to prepare for likely flooding if a tropical cyclone hits.

Solomon Island forecasters upgraded a tropical disturbance watch advisory on Friday, warning there was potential for the system to develop into a cyclone overnight.

Winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour were forecast to develop in the area, just two weeks after Cyclone Evan caused widespread devastation in Samoa and Fiji.

The chief operations officer at the Solomons' Emergency Operations Centre, George Baragamu, said the centre was on standby, and it issued precautionary safety messages.

Fishermen have been urged not to go to sea and people living in coastal areas have been advised to move to higher ground. People have been urged to listen to local radio for updates.

Earlier, Fiji Meteorological Service said a tropical depression was heading south-southwest and was expected to turn southeast, past New Caledonia. Duty forecaster Amit Singh said there was a high chance of the depression developing into a cyclone in the following 24 to 36 hours.

If the system continued on the same track, central and eastern parts of Solomon Islands would experience heavy rain and gale force winds. Hurricane-force winds were not expected, but heavy rain could cause flooding in some areas.

Mr Singh said the cyclone would not affect Vanuatu or Fiji, which is still dealing with the aftermath of Cyclone Evan.

Cyclone Evan hit Samoa on 13 December, causing at least five deaths, major flooding and destruction of buildings and crops. It went on to pound Fiji, where the main island of Viti Levu bore the brunt of the category four storm.