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Cairns in crosshairs of category 4 Yasi

By Todagia Kelola and Yehiura Hriehwazi PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 2, 2011) – Papua New Guinea’s Weather Bureau yesterday issued strong wind warnings for waters on the southern Papua New Guinea (PNG)/Indonesia border to Suau Island in the Milne Bay Province as a result of Cyclone Yasi that is likely to hit Cairns at about 1 am tonight.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Tropical Storm Risk, Cyclone Yasi today is likely to develop into a category 4 Tropical cyclone with maximum winds of 131 miles per hour as it moves towards Cairns in Australia ]

It said that Cyclone Yasi was unlikely to be a threat to PNG except for moderate winds and rains as a result of the cyclone moving towards Australia. Duty forecaster at the National Weather Office, Konny Nato told the Post-Courier that there was a strong wind warning for the waters of Milne Bay with 25 to 40 knots current and that the Misima Airport is on "holdings", a term used by the National Weather Office to airline operators to use their discretion. He also stated that the Gurney airport which takes larger aircraft could be upgraded to "holdings" stages as of late yesterday but that was not confirmed last night.

When asked on the possibility of the cyclone changing its direction and push north-ward to PNG, Mr. Nato said it was highly unlikely.

Authorities in the Milne Bay Province are watching the storm closely as it moved slowly west.

Provincial disaster coordinator Eric Balaria warned people particularly those on the coast and the islands to take precautions.

"We have advised them to move up to higher ground," Mr. Balaria said Yasi was expected to move within 300 kilometers of Milne Bay’s southern islands.

Meanwhile Tropical Cyclone Yasi could become a category five monster packing 300kmh winds by the time it crosses the Queensland coast, the Australian weather bureau has warned.

Latest Bureau of Meteorology modeling shows Yasi making landfall at Cairns early on Thursday morning as one of the likely scenarios.

Thousands of north Queensland residents could be forced to leave their homes today as authorities prepare for the arrival of severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi.

Meanwhile Air Niugini advised the travelling public last night that there was a strong possibility of disruptions to Air Niugini services to Cairns Australia today.

The aircraft that operated last night to Cairns was expected to return to Port Moresby, it said.

The airline said as of last night, it planned to operate PX 90 / PX 93 today to Cairns, however this was subject to the airport remaining open and Air Niugini’s assessment that the operation could be undertaken safely.

"The impact of the disruptions to Cairns may have an adverse impact on the rest of Air Niugini operations throughout the network during Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the airline said. We also wish to advise all customers who have been ticketed to travel to Cairns via Port Moresby to consider their travel plan carefully. Air Niugini’s sales staff will assist to revalidate your ticket to another date free of charge if customers wish to change their travel dates, it said. The situation is beyond Air Niugini’s control and we request our customers to take note of this. Those who insist to continue their journey will meet their own expenses. Air Niugini will not meet the accommodation and meals costs of passengers disrupted from the Cairns services," Air Niugini said.

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