13 Mar 2003

New Caledonia sounds alert as Cyclone Erica heads towards the territory

11:43 am on 13 March 2003

New Caledonia has gone on pre-alert as a cyclone with winds gusting at up to 185 kilometres an hour approaches the island.

Tropical Cyclone Erica was about 500 kilometres north-west of the territory yesterday and is expected to reach New Caledonia on Friday if it maintains its present course and speed.

Meanwhile, a second cyclone named Eseta has turned into a marginal hurricane with winds up to 175 kilometres an hour.

Eseta is several hundred kilometres south west of Fiji and has caused flooding in south-western areas.

The Nadi river has burst its banks, flooding low-lying areas.

Disaster officials in the Kadavu group, about 80 kilometres south of Suva, have set up evacuation centres in community halls and churches to prepare for contingencies.