NEW CALEDONIA RELIEVED AS CYCLONE JASPER MOVES AWAY

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Alert levels reduced in spite of heavy rain and wind

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (Oceania Flash, Mar. 26, 2009) - Authorities in New Caledonia have on Wednesday eased the alert level for tropical cyclone Jasper, which has started to lose intensity as it slowly moves further away from the West coast of the French territory’s main island, the Grande Terre.

Jasper, which had formed on Monday West of the Australian state of Queensland, ha followed during the past two days a path parallel to the West coast of Grande Terre, bringing with it torrential rains and strong winds.

It was moving at a very low speed and could still be regarded as a significantly disturbing factor to the weather pattern due to the winds near its centre (30 knots, gusting 40 knots, according to the latest measures taken by the Join Typhoon Warning Centre [JTWC] from the US Navy, based in Pearl Harbor, Hawai΄i).

Jasper’s passage near New Caledonia’s main island, over the past two days, has caused several roads and bridges to be flooded, especially in the North of Grande Terre.

Strong rains were also recorded in the capital Nouméa, where a record rainfall of 146 millimeters had occurred in only 24 hours, which is the usually average for a whole month of March.

Over the next 12 hours, as it meets cooler water temperatures at the surface of the sea, Jasper is forecast to "dissipate as significant tropical cyclone", the JTWC said.

Jasper has also changed direction in its track: from its earlier south-easterly bearing, it is now following a Nord-north-westerly direction towards the open sea, further away form New Caledonia.

The system will however be "closely monitored for signs of regeneration", the JTWC added.

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