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Heavy rains anticipated as weather system forms near Vanuatu

By Avinesh Gopal SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 31, 2012) – People have been warned to prepare for a tropical cyclone that could possibly affect the country by tomorrow.

The National Weather Forecasting Centre was monitoring a tropical depression near Vanuatu yesterday and said it would form into a tropical cyclone.

Although the tropical depression was located off the west of the country near Vanuatu yesterday afternoon, the Western Division had started experiencing heavy rain.

Director of Meteorology Alipate Waqaicelua said the tropical depression was way to the west of Fiji and much closer to Vanuatu.

"It is expected to move towards the southeast and develop into a tropical cyclone in the next 24 to 48 hours," Mr. Waqaicelua said. "A lot of rain is being experienced in the northwest of Fiji from Nadi to Rakiraki, Kadavu, the Mamanuca and Yasawa groups.

"As the tropical depression intensifies further, it will enhance rain activity and we can expect more rain in the next 48 hours, "There will be heavy rain and a possible tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours."

He said the tropical cyclone could develop earlier than tomorrow.

He said strong winds between 45 kilometers per hour to 55 kilometers per hour gusting up to 80 kilometers per hour were anticipated.

[PIR editors note: Senior meteorologist Amit Singh has said that the weather pattern anticipated to develop into a tropical cyclone is an indirect threat, felt mostly as heavy rain and strong winds in western parts of Vanua Levu.]

"There is a possibility that when the tropical depression intensifies further, there will be gale force winds felt in Kadavu, Yasawa and the Mamanuca groups. At the moment there is lots of rain in the western half of Viti Levu and there is a possibility of flooding of low-lying areas."

Mr. Waqaicelua said his office was consulting with the hydrology department and Water Authority of Fiji on the possibility of major flooding.

He said weather forecasters were anticipating the system to develop into a tropical cyclone and were focused on western Viti Levu.

"We are going for a high probability of this system to develop into a tropical cyclone in the next 24 to 48 hours, it maybe by Wednesday or even earlier."

Mr. Waqaicelua said the weather office had been giving advice to people since the cyclone season started on November 1 last year.

"Right now, we are looking at an approaching cyclone with more rain in the already flood ravaged Western Division," he said.

Considering the flooding experienced in the Western Division last week and with more rain forecast now, people in low-lying areas have been asked to take precautions.

The Fiji Police Force yesterday said the declaration of a natural disaster in the Western Division remained in place and as such, police officers were on the ground helping with rehabilitation and ensuring security.

Police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri said: "With a flash flood warning also in place, the police force is reiterating the importance of adhering to advisories and the need for community partnership. When we issue advisories against crossing flooded creeks and rivers or children playing in flooded areas, we are hoping to get members of the public to help in not only spreading the word but also guiding our children who are at an inquisitive stage thinking it's a fun time to be swimming. During the floods last week, it was clear that the advisories were falling on deaf ears."

Inspector Sokomuri said people should not test the power of Mother Nature.

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