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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 17, 2008) – Tropical Cyclone Funa is crossing central Vanuatu with storm force winds.

The system has winds of up to 135 kilometres an hour [84 miles per hour] as it moves from the island of Espirito Santo eastwards past the island of Ambae.

The cyclone is moving at about 20 kilomeres an hour and is set to curve in a southeasterly direction as begins to move away from Vanuatu.

[PIR editor’s note: According to forecasts from Tropical Storm Risk, Funa has been upgraded to a category one tropical cyclone with winds as high as 95 miles per hour and is expected to increase to a category three, with winds up to 130 miles per hour within the next 36 hours. The storm, which has moved in an easterly direction just past Vanuatu, is projected to swing south, between Vanuatu and Fiji.]

Meteorologists say the sea is very rough in the affected areas with heavy swells.

People and seagoing vessels are strongly advised not to go out to sea until the system moves out of the area.

Heavy rainfall and flooding, including coastal flooding is expected in the affected areas.

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