27 Jan 2003

Cyclone Cilla moving towards Tonga's Ha'apai islands

5:09 pm on 27 January 2003

A depression south east of Fiji has formed into a tropical cyclone which is now headed towards Tonga.

Tropical Cyclone Cilla is moving southeast and on its current path it is expected to pass through the Ha'apai group of islands by tomorrow morning.

Forecasters say the storm is bringing average winds of about 65 kilometres per hour within a hundred kilometres of its centre.

This comes after authorities in Fiji have cancelled a tropical cyclone alert for the whole country issued late yesterday.

The director of meteorology, Rajendra Prasad, says the depression moved across Fiji very rapidly and flood waters brought by the cyclone over Vanua Levu are receding.

Meanwhile, efforts continue to restore services in northern and eastern Fiji which was hit by Cyclone Ami nearly two weeks ago.

Most of the town of Labasa is still without a clean and safe supply of water.

Savusavu town is also without water because of damaged equipment.

This has led to fears by medical authorities that Labasa is at serious risk from an epidemic of waterbourne diseases.

Efforts also continue to re-establish radio services in the cyclone-hit areas.

Radio Fiji's chief executive officer, Francis Herman, says about half of the country has been left without the services of the country's public brodcaster as masts were blown down and transmitters damaged.

Mr Herman says this has affected the easternmost islands in the Lau group, Rotuma in the very north and much of Vanua Levu.

He says he hopes that despite the poor weather a service for Vanua Levu can be restored.

"Well our engineers as we speak are trying to get the only helicopter that is operating in Fiji right now to ferry the mast and transmitters up to the mountain. The roads leading up to the mountain have been washed away"