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Fiji Hit by Cyclone Tomas

By Sue Richards last modified Mar 15, 2010 10:57 AM

Published: 2010-03-15 10:57:59
Topics: Weather
Countries: Fiji

See Weather Warning with details of wind strengths and progress of Cyclone Tomas published by the Fiji Times.

Cyclone Tomas, classified as a category-four cyclone (the second most destructive on a five-point scale) is battering Fiji, with winds averaging up to 175km/hr (95 knots).

Director of Meteorology Rajendra Prasad, said Tomas has continued to intensify a little more from this morning, with momentary gusts up to 230 km/hr (125 knots) close to the centre. The cyclone is expected to reach peak strength in the next 12 hours.

Tomas was estimated to be generating waves of up to 7.2 metres (24 feet) near its centre, mariners were warned through the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.

Pajiliai Dobui, Fiji Disaster Management Office director, said the storm was the most powerful the country had seen for several years. Officials said communications had been lost with smaller islands closer to the eye of the cyclone.

Thousands of people have taken sheter in evacuation centres however on some of the smaller islands sea surges have swamped many homes forcing people to flee from their homes having not heeded warnings.

In his 4.30pm update, Mr Prasad said Tomas had its centre located just east-southeast of Cikobia Island and about 60 km east-north-east of Udu Point at 4pm today (Fiji Daylight Saving Time UTC plus 13hrs). The cyclone is moving south at about 10 km/hr.

He said damaging gale force winds extended to about 150 nautical miles (280km) from the centre.

"TC Tomas has maintained a very slow southward movement all day today and is expected to continue moving south at this slow pace for the next 24 hours. Thereafter, it should curve south-eastwards and accelerate," he said.

He said after the core of the hurricane force winds passed over Cikobia Island, Tomas should move southward onto eastern Vanua Levu, Rabi, Kioa, Taveuni, Laucala, Qamea and nearby islands overnight, before spreading to the Northern and Central Lau group tomorrow.

"High winds and very heavy rain is expected as the eye of the cyclone passes overhead or nearby," he said. "Most of the Northern Division and almost whole of the Eastern Division should experience severe effects of the Hurricane including flooding from the sea due to storm tide (storm surge+ high astronomical tide) and wave effect (phenomenal seas and swells generated from high winds)."

Information taken from the Daily Telegraph and Fiji Times.