SOLOMONS UNDER CYCLONE SEIGE ONCE AGAIN

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Jan. 27) - The Island of Renell in the Renell Bellona Province of Solomon Islands was reportedly battered by Cyclone Beni.

A spokesperson for the National Disaster council, Brian Beti, had no initial reports of damage or injury.  The storm was said to have been less severe, however, than its recent predecessor, Cyclone Zoe.

According to The New Zealand Herald, tropical cyclone Beni formed in the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands, with winds of 64 kilometers per hour to 74 km/h at its center.

The Fiji Meteorological Service yesterday put it about 600 kilometers east of Tikopia, which was badly battered by Cyclone Zoe over the New Year.

If Beni follows the usual southeast path, Vanuatu and New Caledonia are likely to feel it in the next 36 hours, weather expert said.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii predicted Beni would move due south, which would take it to the west of New Caledonia, into the Tasman Sea and towards New Zealand.

If it takes a more easterly course, it could in a few days hit Fiji, which is still recovering from Cyclone Ami, which killed 14 people.

The National Disaster Council’s, Brian Beti says the agency is closely monitoring the situation in Makira and Guadalcanal as both islands are usually affected by strong winds and seas when cyclones hit the Renell and Bellona Province.

He says the weather coast of Makira is already seeing high seas so villagers have moved inland.

The Acting Director of the Meteorology service in Honiara, Chanel Iro, says cyclone Beni is remaining stationary and intensifying.

He said there were earlier indications that it would move away, but it has not moved since Saturday.

East Renell is the largest raised coral atoll in the world and is a world heritage site

Around fifteen hundred people live in the province.

January 27, 2003

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

The New Zealand Herald: www.nzherald.co.nz/ 

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