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State of natural disaster declared as Fiji braces for Cyclone Yasa

A state of natural disaster has been declared in Fiji, as the nation braces for the arrival of Cyclone Yasa this evening.

It was expected to make landfall over the western Vanua Luvu province of Bua at around 8pm local time (9pm NZT).

The nation has been told to expect incredibly strong “damaging and destructive” winds.

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Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama says Cyclone Yasa could quite easilty surpass the disastrous effects of Cyclone Winston in 2016.

Cyclone Winston destroyed multiple villages, killed 44 people and left thousands homeless. It caused about US$1.4 billion worth of damage.

Bainimarama assured Fijians that authorities stood by ready to deploy immediately.

“All those in the path of this storm rest assured, we will reach you,” he said. “Our battle tested disaster officials are ready to come to the aid of effected communities.

“Stay safe, Fiji.”

State of emergency, curfew in place

The state of natural disaster will be in place for the next 30 days, the nation’s disaster management announced.

The average wind speed around the storm is 250km/h, with gusts surging higher than
300km/h.

In a Thursday evening update, the Fiji Met Service said category-five cyclone Yasa was passing through Yasawa-i-Raw and heading towards Fiji’s second-largest island Vanua Levu.

Met Service New Zealand meteorologist Angus Hines said the “thick” of the storm will come overnight and into Friday morning,

Flash flooding and coastal inundation, where large waves, strong winds, and low atmospheric pressure to push the ocean much further inland than it would normally reach, is also possible, Hines said.

A string of weather warnings remain in place for different parts of the country, Fiji Metservice said.

A storm surge and damaging heavy swell warnings are in place for Rotuma, Yasawa and Mamanuca Group, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

A flash flood warning remains in force for low-lying areas, and landslides are likely, it said.

A curfew is in place from 4pm to 6am.

Sigatoka-based New Zealander Mandy de Vries, who runs tourism business EcoTrax with her husband, spent yesterday “battening down the hatches” and putting up hurricane covers at her home and workplace sites.

Yesterday evening she described the intense heat.

“Before a cyclone, the air gets so heavy and it feels like you can’t do anything without sweating. It’s been like that for a couple of days.

“The air is so hot. You can’t get away from it. It’s horrible. It’s really intense. You know something’s happening. You can feel it in the air.”

Casey Quimby, an American who has lived in Fiji for 14 years, said she is “prepping for the worst-case scenario.”

She runs Animals Fiji, a shelter and veterinary charity, and is expecting to be busy tending to injured animals in the aftermath of the cyclone.

The team have boarded up the windows at their Nadi and Savusavu sites, and vets have taken medical kits home with them in case they encounter animals in need.

The National Emergency Operation Centre has been activated to co-ordinate the Fijian government’s response and relief efforts.

Evacuations have already taken place in low-lying areas and all non-essential government workers have been told to stay home during the height of the cyclone.

The National Disaster Management Office this morning reiterated warnings of imminent danger, pleading with those living near the coast to move to evacuation centres as the storm approaches.

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