Tropical Cyclone Yasa is edging closer to Fiji as the island nation braces for a catastrophic storm bringing towering waves, widespread flooding and destructive winds.
The National Emergency Operation Centre has been activated ahead of the category 5 tropical cyclone making landfall to coordinate the Fijian Government’s response and relief efforts.
Evacuations have already taken place in low-lying areas and all non-essential government workers have been told to stay home during the height of the cyclone.
Heavy rain is falling and squally thunderstorms are rumbling overhead as the first tropical cyclone of the region threatens to wreak havoc.
All public transport has been halted as the storm, packing ferocious 260km/h winds, is expected to pummel the islands along with severe coastal flooding.
An Air New Zealand flight from Nadi to Auckland has been cancelled due to adverse conditions.
The disaster management office says coastal dwellers should expect storm surges with waves as high as 16m.
People were warned to secure homes and stow objects that could be blown away by strong winds or washed away by floods or storm surges.
The Fiji Meteorological Service has issued a damaging heavy swell warning for Rotuma, Yasawa and the Mamanuca Group, Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and nearby smaller islands.
Aid agencies are preparing for a disaster and urging people to take precautions to keep themselves safe.
The Fiji Metservice said the slow moving storm which was travelling around 11km/h was expected to be located about 320km south-southwest of Rotuma at 3am.
Wave height was expected to grow to seven metres this morning with winds ramping up across the day.
It said gales were expected to hit from 3am and expected to further increase to reach “very destructive hurricane force winds” by 3pm.
The Meteorological Service warned by Friday the whole of Fiji is expected to experience damaging winds or stronger, widespread heavy rain leading to landslides, severe flooding and burst river banks, storm surges, damaging heavy swells and high waves causing sea flooding in coastal areas.
It warned there was likely to be widespread destruction, with the strongest winds reserved for several hours either side as the cyclone centre passes overhead or nearby.
At 9am on Friday, the cyclone was expected to be located about 65km east-northeast of Yasawa-iRara, about 160km north-northeast of Nadi and about 460km south-southeast of Rotuma.
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