CYCLONE SWINGS AWAY FROM VANUATU, NEW CALEDONIA

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 2, 2008) – Tropical cyclone Gene was moving away from Vanuatu on Saturday after lashing the southernmost islands of Futuna and Anatom throughout Friday.

The Vanuatu meteorological service says it expects the cyclone has caused severe damage but there are few details as yet.

Reports from the area say a number of houses on Futuna have already been destroyed.

Gene is 160 kilometres south of Anatom, moving slowly towards to New Caledonia.

It is expected to hit the small islands to the west of New Caledonia in around 36 hours.

New Caledonia is also preparing for Cyclone Gene's approach, with communities are being advised to begin securing property that could be blown away by strong winds as the .

[PIR editor’s note: According to weather website Tropical Storm Risk, the cyclone on Sunday made an abrupt southward turn to the east of Vanuatu, sparing its southern islands from the full brunt of its force and projected to miss New Caledonia.]

It was also recommended to stock up food items, water and batteries and to stay away from beaches and creeks because of the high risk of flooding.

Fiji's agricultural exports are poised for a gloomy future after the destruction caused by Cyclone Gene earlier in the week.

Our reporter in Suva, Samisoni Pareti, says preliminary reports provided for interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama's cabinet shows that up to 90 per cent of crops have been affected by Cyclone Gene.

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