17 Feb 2019

Cyclone Oma strengthens to a category 3

3:07 am on 17 February 2019
Image of tropical cyclone Oma

Image of tropical cyclone Oma Photo: Fiji Meteorological Service

The Fiji Meteorological Service has upgraded Cyclone Oma to a category 3.

The cyclone is moving west at 6kph and intensifying with sustained winds close to its centre of 120 kph expected to increase to 138 kph.

Meanwhile, the Vanuatu Red Cross is reporting that houses and trees have been brought down by Cyclone Oma in the north of the country.

Vanuatu Red Cross communication officer Olivia Finau

Vanuatu Red Cross communication officer Olivia Finau Photo: Olivia Finau / Vanuatu Red Cross

The Red Cross communications officer in Port Vila, Olivia Finau, said officers in the northern provinces of Sanma, Torba and Malampa are reporting damage to food gardens, crops and fruit trees.

Traditional Vanuatu houses have been worst affected by the storm according to Ms Finau.

In Torba province she said the rough seas and heavy swells have washed 50 metres inland.

"They have destroyed some of the residential houses along the coast," said Ms Finau.

The Sanma province had not reported any significant damage so far, said Ms Finau, while in Penama heavy rainfall was the main issue.

"People cannot access the main services like hospital because the roads were blocked by flooding, water and even the sea," she said.

Communication with the north is still very challenging.

"In Torba province it's very poor. For the last few days we cannot receive reports from the Torres group, only from Banks and with HF radios only," said Ms Finau.

Most telecommunications are down while transport links to the north have been cut-off since Monday.

"All flights were cancelled, even boats and ships cannot travel because of the rough seas and big swells," she said.

The latest official cyclone warning states, seas will remain very rough to phenomenal with heavy and phenomenal swells over the affected areas.