4 Jan 2019

Cyclone Mona due in Fiji this weekend; warnings issued

8:16 pm on 4 January 2019

Cyclone Mona, a category two storm, continued to slowly pace southeast along the Pacific on Friday, gathering strenth as it started to line the Fiji island of Vanua Levu in its sights.

The storm on Friday night had veered southwest briefly, but was due to hook back towards Fiji's main islands, where it was due to arrive in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The Fiji Meteorological Service said it was about 180km northwest of the island of Yasa-i-Rawa on Friday evening, or about 330km north-northwest of Labasa, the main town on Vanua Levu.

It was packing winds as high as 130km/hr, and was predicted to maintain its category two strength.

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Photo: Fiji Met Service

But it isn't the winds authorities are worried about. The country is sodden after days of heavy rain, and the government on Friday opened an emergency operations centre in anticipation of probable floods.

Authorities were planning to open evacuation centres on Saturday, and people in low-lying areas were being urged to secure their belongings and consider moving to higher ground.

Anare Leweniqila, the director of the National Disaster Management Office, said he expected flooding to cause problems.

"We have the recent experience last year when we had the tropical depression and cyclone.

"For us, not so much the wind last year, but flooding caused havoc in a lot of our towns in the Western Division. So that is the same works and measures that we are undertaking for this particular event," he said.

He urged people to prepare.

"Into the new year there have been a lot of celebrations and communities have put up sheds for celebrations so we have requested all these communities to wind up and prepare to have items taken down and stored up neatly.

"This is to prevent any accidents from loose material flying around."

Across Fiji, flights and ferry sailings were cancelled across the country on Friday, and people were being told to stay away from the sea, with very rough seas forecast for much of the country this weekend.

Fiji's NDMO Director, Anare Leweniqila

Fiji's NDMO Director, Anare Leweniqila Photo: FIJI NDMO