24 Jan 2011

Pacific nations on cyclone alert

8:43 pm on 24 January 2011

Tropical Cyclone Wilma has hit American Samoa and triggered alerts in other island countries in the South Pacific.

The Fiji Meteorological Service says a warning has been issued for Tonga as the cyclone intensifies on Monday night.

Wilma is now a Category 2 cyclone with winds close to the centre expected to be about 95km/h, gusting up to 120km/h.

Forecaster Misaeli Funaki says the cyclone has moved away from the Samoa group and is expected to become more powerful as nears Tonga's northern islands.

Wilma is forecast to arrive at Tonga early on Tuesday and bring gale-force winds to the Southern Lau Group in Fiji.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service in American Samoa is advising residents to stay indoors until the all-clear is given later on Monday night.

The cyclone has downed power and telephone lines and broken the tramway cable from Utulei to Mt Alava.

Two homes, one in Aua and another in Leloaloa, lost their roofs while a home in Fagasa was also badly damaged.

Pago Pago International Airport is closed and people on the cyclone-battered western island of Tutuila have been told to boil water.