| Treacherous cyclone hitting Fiji islands
| Friday, December 7, 2007
|CNN) -- Powerful Tropical Cyclone Daman closed in on Fiji on Friday, threatening the Pacific island chain with home-destroying winds and dangerous floods.
"It's most likely going to be one of the severest cyclones to hit the country in recent times," Fiji Disaster Management Office director Joeli Rokovabe told The Associated Press. Tourist resorts -- Fiji's top industry -- are also threatened, he added.
The population of the nation's 332 islands is about 900,000, according to the CIA World Factbook, and many residents rely on fishing and farming to survive.
A Category 4 storm, Daman has triggered a hurricane warning for some of Fiji's larger islands, including Cikobia and northeastern Vanua Levu. Daman's eye is expected to brush Vanua Levu, which is Fiji's second largest island, said meteorologist Alipate Waqaicelua.
Vanua Levu residents and those on the Lau and Lomaiviti island groups have been warned to move from coastal areas to cyclone shelters and other safe buildings, said Rokovabe, according to The Associated Press.
The storm is predicted to bring "winds of very destructive hurricane force" within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of its center, according to the Fiji Meteorological Service.
The island's Nadi Meteorological Center warned that the storm will "cause major flooding" and "pretty serious damage" to islanders' flimsy housing.
Estimated average winds speeds near Daman's center are up to 112 mph (180 kmh) gusting to 161 mph (260 kmh), according to the Fiji Meteorological Service.
"Expect heavy rain and squally thunderstorms, especially over the eastern half of the country," said the service's Web site, which also warned of flash flooding in low-lying areas, rivers and streams.
Daman is moving east at about 9 mph (15 kmh), and is expected to curve to the southeast, the service Web site said.
A Category 4 storm can cause extensive damage to small structures and push seawater up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) inland.
Fiji's northern islands were expected to take the brunt of the storm in the overnight hours, with lesser damage anticipated in the south.
The chain has been hit by 13 tropical cyclones in the past ten years, AP reported. Among the worst was 2003's lower-intensity Cyclone Ami, which killed 17 people when it slammed Vanua Levu, according to AP.
In 1973, 70 people died when Cyclone Lottie sank two ships off the western part of the island chain, AP reported.
|posted by Moderator Londen time 11:14 PM