13 Jan 2011

Cyclone Vania on track to New Caledonia

2:23 pm on 13 January 2011

New Caledonia is on alert as Tropical Cyclone Vania tracks slowly southwestwards towards the Loyalty Islands from Vanuatu.

An orange alert is now in force for the French territory's easternmost group, which requires businesses and schools to close and people to take precautions to secure property, take shelter, keep away from beaches and listen to the radio.

The Vanuatu Meteorological Service's Forecast Manager David Gibson says the category two tropical cyclone is slow moving but winds may rise to 60 knots or 110 kilometres per hour at its centre.

"At the moment it's fifty knots at the centre. It may possibly intensify within the next six to twelve hours and then stay like this for a couple of hours before weakening because it's approaching cooler waters."

David Gibson says there've been unconfirmed reports of some damage to housing and vegetation on the islands of Tanna and Erromango as 140 kilometre per hour winds pounded the islands.

Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office is advising people that red alert is still current for Tafea province, and blue alert remains for Malampa.

The red alert for Shefa has been downgraded to yellow.