13 Feb 2010

American Samoa's Manu'a Islands feel the force of Cyclone Rene

3:07 pm on 13 February 2010

The full force of Cyclone Rene is expected to hit the Manu'a Islands of American Samoa about now, though residents have been experiencing heavy rain and strong winds for several hours.

The high school in Manu'a has been made available to residents in need of shelter.

The information officer for the Emergency Operations Centre in Pago Pago, Kaisia Felise, says a short time Rene was 60 kilometres to the south east of Manu'a.

He says Rene, which is bringing winds gusting up to 150 kilometres an hour, is expected to hit the main island of Tutuila this evening with damaging storm force winds.

Mr Felise says the people are well prepared.

"The public has been notified since two days ago and we have been putting out warnings, we have been putting out advisories to the public and I believe the whole island is well aware."

Meanwhile Rene is also expected to bring storm force winds to Samoa's Upolu island overnight.

The most recent special weather bulletin on Rene from the Samoa Meteorological Services, at 11:20 local time, tracked Rene moving west southwest at 22 kilometres an hour mph.

The cyclone is expected to be at about 114 nautical miles southeast of Apia at 7.00 pm this evening.

The Met Service's Sala Sagato Tuafiso says the cyclone has changed from a Southwest to a Westerly path,

It is more direct to Upolu island, in terms of the lattitude. And if it continues in that direction in the next six hours, there is a really good possibility that it will have an impact on Upolu island tomorrow and winds could go up to.. well storm force by early tomorrow morning.

The storm has so far claimed one life, with a maintenance worker falling from the roof of a building in American Samoa.

He was on the roof to secure the building before the cyclone arrived.