VANUATU BRACES AS CYCLONE JASMINE CLOSES IN

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Heavy winds, rain and flooding expected in southern islands

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 6, 2012) – People in Vanuatu are being warned to prepare for the arrival of a strengthening tropical cyclone.

The cyclone is expected to generate damaging gale force winds, heavy rainfall and floods in the next 12 to 24 hours.

Suva-based Nadraki weather expert, Neville Koop, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that it is passing north of New Caledonia on Tuesday morning, and is on track to reach the southern islands of Vanuatu.

"Some of the islands will start to feel the effects of the rain and the winds ahead of the cyclone later this afternoon," he said.

"The current forecast information we have suggests that as it nears Vanuatu it will take a slightly more southerly dip and probably not cross any of the islands directly, but parallel some of the islands across the archipelago."

The Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office says a Blue Alert has been issued for Malampa Shefa and Tafea Provinces.

Provincial liaison officer Peta Turnbull has told Radio Australia preparations will be finalised on Tuesday morning.

"So that national disaster management office will meet with all agencies regarding the cyclone preparations so that will include all of the NGOs and major government bodies that are working throughout Vanuatu," she said.

"We will also then be advising churches and schools and government buildings that there may be some potential need for evacuation centers so they will be put on alert."

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