13 Jan 2011

New Caledonia to go on maximum alert over Cyclone Vania

3:21 pm on 13 January 2011

New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands are on high alert as Cyclone Vania makes its way slowly south from Vanuatu.

The Vanuatu Meteorogical Service says Vania has barely moved during the morning from its position 60 kilometres northwest of Tanna.

But Forecast Manager David Gibson says Vania is predicted to maintain its southwesterly direction and is likely to intensify over the next six to twelve hours.

After a two hour hour hiatus he expects the cyclone to weaken from its Category Two state as it moves over cooler water and passes New Caledonia's southern tip.

Authorities in New Caledonia are warning that Vania is a direct threat to the Loyalty Islands from this evening and to the main island during tomorrow.

An orange alert is now in force for the Loyalty Islands which requires businesses and schools to close and people to take precautions to secure their property, take shelter, keep away from beaches and exposed places and listen to the radio.

The Vanuatu Met Service says the centre of the cyclone has winds of 95 kilometres per hour and there've been gusts of up to 140 kilometres per hour in Vanuatu's Tafea Province.