29 Jan 2008

Tropical cyclone Gene strengthening as it moves from Fiji to Vanuatu

5:04 pm on 29 January 2008

Tropical cyclone Gene, which flattened houses and brought down powerlines overnight in Fiji, is expected to intensify before it reaches Vanuatu.

Many people in coastal villages on the west side of Viti Levu have moved to higher ground, with warnings of heavy seas and swells

Tropical cyclone Gene is now heading west of Fiji, and is likely to hit Vanuatu within the next day and a half.

Cyclone forecaster, Alipate Waqaicelua, says at the moment the cyclone is a category 2, with 50 knot winds, and gusts up to 70-80 knots, but is likely to reach hurricane status before it reaches Vanuatu.

"It's still lying in a very favourable position to intensify further and between Fiji and Vanuatu the conditions on the surface as well as above - in the atmosphere are conducive to further development."

The National disaster management office has held a briefing for Cabinet, and field officers are now surveying the damage.

Its director, Joeli Rokovada, says one hospital is flooded and all schools are closed, with the main concern now rising water levels.

The rivers are rising, flood waters are rising in a number of rivers in the country, and some places are flooded at the moment. Some sections of the road are closed to all traffic.