16 Feb 2018

Cyclone Gita moving south of New Caledonia

7:16 pm on 16 February 2018

A maximum level two alert will be in force for New Caledonia's Isle of Pines from tonight as Cyclone Gita approaches.

This means the islands' residents have to stay indoors until the alert is lifted.

The Deputy Director General of the Pacific Community in Noumea, Cameron Diver said rest of New Caledonia remains on pre-alert.

"[That] means that they should start getting prepared for strong winds, the seas that can accompany that, to secure property and ensure that when alert level two, which is the highest level of alert, comes in place people can just head home and stay safe," said Cameron Diver.

Mr Diver said people were remaining vigilant and in Noumea the strongest impact of the cyclone was expected to be felt this evening.

Teachers who were due to prepare next week's start of the school year have deferred their planning sessions until Monday.

Gita still a Category 3

Gita remains a category three storm and could stay at that strength as it moves within about 100 kilometres of the Isle of Pines.

The system is expected to track west and southwest from its current location and will pass over the southeast islands of New Caledonia over the next day or so.

It is forecast to pass to the south of Mare and the Isle of Pines from tonight, bringing wind gusts of up to 130 kilometres an hour.

The island of Grande Terre could possibly also experience gale force winds in excess of 100km/h.

Air Travel Interrupted

Noumea's domestic airport will be closed from this afternoon as Gita heads towards the territory.

Air Caledonie put on additional flights to transport passengers from the Isle of Pines, where the airport is now closed.

Air Loyaute, which flies to the Loyalty Islands, has cancelled today's flights.

Damages still possible in Noumea

Fiji cyclone forecaster Rajneel Prasad said gale force winds may affect Noumea as the cyclone approaches.

Heavy rain is expected in the south of New Caledonia overnight and into Saturday and Mr Prasad said storm surges and damages were likely.

"We do expect some storm surges in this. And since it's a category three system it's also a hurricane," Mr Prasad said.

"It's a category three system that is heading towards them, and we are expecting damages to infrastructure too."

Mr Prasad said on its current track the cyclone was likely to impact New Caledonia for the next 30 to 48 hours.

MetService New Zealand said Gita was likely to head towards New Zealand early next week.

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