The Fijian government today ordered a nationwide curfew, including a ban on public transportation, and a potentially devastating cyclone is expected to unleash high winds and flooding across the island nation the next day.
Tropical Cyclone Yasa made landfall in Fiji this afternoon, hitting the island of Vanua Levu with winds of 240 km / hr equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.
This is the second time this year that the Fiji archipelago has made direct landfall by a major tropical cyclone.
Local officials have warned that the potential effect of the storm could be devastating.
The country ordered a 14-hour nationwide curfew starting at 4 p.m. local time, and people living in low-lying areas were urged to move to higher ground before dark, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said in a video posted on Facebook.
“The impact of this super storm is more or less across the country,” Bainimarama said in the video.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that even well-built homes could suffer “severe damage” as a result of winds of more than 200 km / h, while trees and power poles could fall, causing further destruction. and disturbances.
Yasa would “easily overcome” the force of 2016 Cyclone Winston, Bainimarama said, referring to the most intense tropical storm on record in the southern hemisphere, which killed more than 40 Fijians and left tens of thousands homeless.
More than 850,000 Fijians, or 95 percent of the population, live on the direct road from Yasa, Bainimarama said, adding that weather forecasts anticipated flash floods and “severe coastal flooding” that included waves up to 10 meters high. height.
Police are imposing a ban on public transport, the country’s National Office for Disaster Management said, adding that the country had declared a “state of natural disaster” that gives police authorities greater powers.
At 8pm tonight, downtown Yasa was forecast to be 100 kilometers east of the village of Yasawa-i-Rara and potentially over Fiji’s fifth most populous province, Bua, home to 15,000 people, the office said. .
Strong cyclones have become increasingly common in the Pacific in recent years, something Bainimarama has attributed to climate change.
Earlier this year, he said that global warming was the cause of the worsening wildfires in Australia, as well as the most intense storms in the Pacific.
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“Fellow Fijians, as the world warms, these storms get stronger. We must all treat these weather-driven catastrophes with deadly seriousness,” Bainimarama wrote in a Facebook post today.