13 Jan 2011

Maximum alert over Cyclone Vania in New Caledonia

4:07 pm on 13 January 2011

New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands are preparing to go on maximum alert as Tropical Cyclone Vania makes its way slowly southwestwards from Vanuatu.

The territory's easternmost group will go on red alert in an hour which means people must stay inside until the cyclone's passed.

Sally Round reports.

"Authorities in New Caledonia are warning that Vania is a direct threat to the Loyalty Islands from this evening and to the main island tomorrow. The group is now on orange alert and the mainland remains on standby. Businesses and schools have been forced to close and people are being asked to secure their property, take shelter, keep away from beaches and exposed places and listen to the radio. Vanuatu's Meteorological service says the cyclone's predicted to maintain its southwesterly direction and intensify over the next six to twelve hours before weakening as it moves over cooler water nearing the main island's southern tip. Tourists on the island of Lifou are preparing to be evacuated inland away from high seas and strong winds. Manager of Dreyhu Village resort, William Haury, says there've been 40 knot winds and rough seas so far and preparations are being made to move his 40 guests inland. ' Electric light's down but only (in) one or two places, some trees are down near the hotel, the marina is not too good but for the moment no big problems.' Tropical Cyclone Vania has pounded Vanuatu's islands of Tanna and Erromanga and there've been unconfirmed reports of damage to housing and vegetation."