Fiji Time: 7:50 AM on Tuesday 20 March

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Gita packs power

Repeka Nasiko
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

SEVERE Tropical Cyclone Gita has developed into a Category 5 system with wind gusts of up to 230 kilometres per hour and is expected to carve a destructive path through Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa tonight.

The cyclone is travelling at 20 kilometres per hour and Fiji Meteorological Service director Ravin Kumar said its damaging hurricane force winds would be experienced over the Southern Lau group hours before TC Gita made landfall.

He said villagers in the Lau Group, Kadavu and nearby islands should prepare for the worst.

"It has intensified in the past 24 hours. It was located about 21.7 degrees south and 172 degrees west or about 650km east of Ono-i-Lau at 3pm (yesterday)," he said.

"It is expected to further intensify to a Category 5 system in the next 12 to 24 hours over open waters and Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita is now moving west.

"In the next 12 hours (from 4pm yesterday) it will be located on the southern parts of Tonga, and by midday tomorrow (today) it will be in open waters.

"We expect Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita to enter Fiji waters between tonight and tomorrow morning given that it continues to move at a speed of 20km per hour.

"So by midnight (last night), we expect it to be just west of Ono-i-Lau. We expect it to pass Ono-i-Lau this evening.

"By tomorrow (today) midday it should be just south of Kadavu at a distance of about 230km south of the island.

"As it comes closer, stronger winds will be felt and then damaging gale force winds will be next followed by the strong force winds and hurricane force winds.

"The onset of damaging gale force winds can be 36 to 48 hours before the onset and it may persist for several hours after the centre has actually passed.

"For Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa where we expect hurricane force winds to be affecting them, again I would re-emphasise the onset of the winds will occur several hours before and several hours after the centre has passed.

"It will continue to travel southwards away from the group."

He said warnings were in force for the Lau Group, Kadavu and the rest of the group.

"Warnings in place include a hurricane warning for Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa, strong wind warnings remain in force for the Southern Lau Group, damaging gale wind warning remains in force for Matuku, Totoya, Moala, Kadavu and nearby smaller islands and is now in force for Lakeba and Nayau.

"Strong wind warnings are now in force for the Central Lau Group, Lomaiviti, southern half of Viti Levu and the rest of Fiji.

"Winds are expected to strengthen to destructive hurricane force winds with average speeds of 165km per hour and momentary gusts of up to 230km per hour from (this) morning.

"The onset of these destructive hurricane force winds will be around (this) morning and will first hit Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa."

Mr Prasad warned against venturing out to sea.

"For mariners, expect hurricane force winds and phenomenal seas within 15 nautical miles of the centre and damaging heavy swells will develop.

"There is a strong likelihood of sea flooding of low-lying coastal areas. I would suggest inter-island transfers in these areas not to travel out to sea while these warnings are in force."

See devastation in Tonga.

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