6 Apr 2016

Fiji on alert as Cyclone Zena intensifies

7:58 pm on 6 April 2016

Schools are closed, many roads are impassable, and the government has told people to stay indoors as Cyclone Zena intensifies and moves closer to Fiji.

Businesses prepare for Cyclone Zena.

Businesses prepare for Cyclone Zena. Photo: Fiji Government

Zena comes after several days of intense rain in the west of Fiji that has already left several thousand in shelters and claimed at least one life.

The storm has been upgraded over the day from a category 1 storm to a category 3 storm, with winds gusting up to 170km/h at its centre.

The cyclone is moving east-southeast at 40 kilometres an hour and is expected to pose a significant threat for the southern islands of Fiji overnight.

DISMAC officials in the Western Division of Fiji preparing for Zena.

DISMAC officials in the Western Division of Fiji preparing for Zena. Photo: RNZ / Sally Round

Zena has been tracking towards the south of the main island Viti Levu, and the Fiji Met Office said the storm was intensifying as it headed towards the country from the north west.

The Met Office is warning people to expect heavy rain and flooding, including sea flooding as it moves down the west coast.

It is just six weeks since Cyclone Winston claimed 44 lives, left tens of thousands homeless and caused widespread destruction and many fear for their safety.

All schools are closed, rivers are swollen and the major town of Nadi has been under metres of water after the river broke its banks.

Weather authorities say Zena is fast moving but winds are not expected to be as destructive as Winston, which affected more than a third of the population.

RNZ lnternational's Sally Round is in the Fijian city of Lautoka.

She said the cyclone shutters were going up again around Lautoka, six weeks after Winston.

Many people still in devastated homes after the category 5 storm are not so lucky - they have been told to head to higher ground or evacuation centres.

Call for more shelter

Disaster authorities in the west of Viti Levu said they needed many more tents and tarpaulins.

Sitiveni Tavaga of the National Disaster Management Office.

Sitiveni Tavaga of the National Disaster Management Office. Photo: RNZ / Sally Round

Sitiveni Tavaga of the National Disaster Management Office said the region was one of the worst hit by Cyclone Winston six weeks ago and people are still in shock from that.

He said more shelters were urgently needed.

"Thousands, we need thousands. I can tell you that there's still people who are coming to this office asking for tarpaulins and tents. We do have some and we hope that will keep them for now but as I said we need more."

Mr Tavaga said nearly 8000 people had moved to evacuation centres from Rakiraki to Sigatoka.

Government institutes curfew

A curfew is in force for the whole of Fiji from 6pm this evening as the country braces for Zena.

The government has told people to remain indoors and secure their properties until further notice. Only emergency and essential vehicles are allowed to move about.

Media have been advised to obtain vehicle passes from the police.

Meanwhile, all international flights scheduled for this afternoon and evening have been cancelled by the various airlines due to adverse weather conditions.

Many domestic flights have also been cancelled.