Fiji braces for tropical cyclone

Suva, Jan 10: One person was swept away by strong currents while crossing a river in Fiji as the South Pacific island nation is bracing for a tropical cyclone.

According to National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) Director Vasiti Soko, the incident occurred in Tavua, about 91 km from Fiji's third largest city of Nadi, reports Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, Fiji Meteorological Services Director Terry Atalifo said that tropical depression, which is slow moving to the west of the country, should become a cyclone, warning that the weather system would bring excessive rainfalls.

"Since it's going to remain to the west of us, the convergence zone and the rain bands will continue to bring rain across the whole country in the next few days. Therefore, we have a heavy rain warning for the whole of Fiji," he said.

He warned of a flash flood in all low lying areas or areas that are prone to flooding across the whole country.

Because of the bad weather, 50 roads across Fiji are currently closed due to flooding, while 18 others are restricted.

Currently, 200 people are taking shelter at three evacuation centres and the NDMO expects this number to increase as more rain is in the forecast.

The NDMO is urging Fijians to avoid unnecessary travels, limit movements and not to cross flooded roads, rivers and streams as a tropical cyclone warning has been issued.

In Suva, capital of Fiji, police have issued a restriction on movement into the capital city.

The police will set up exit and entry points to the city and movements will be restricted unless for essential services and for business owners only.

Police officers will also be patrolling the towns in other areas to ensure there are no unnecessary movements.

The Education Ministry said on Sunday that due to the bad weather, all schools across the country will be closed from Monday until further notice.

The Maritime Safety Authority also directed on Sunday all ships to cease travel immediately until further notice.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on Sunday called on Fijians to take the current weather warnings seriously, saying that the government will continue to ensure every person is safe during this cyclone season.

The Pacific cyclone season is from November to April every year.