A powerful cyclone set to pummel Fiji is worsening, reaching the most destructive levels possible, and a national forecaster is warning lives are now in peril.
Cyclone Yasa, which has been upgraded to the highest category-five strength, is due to make landfall late Thursday.
Winds gusting a ferocious 270km/h are expected to hit the Pacific Island nation.
The same storm is a possible threat to northern New Zealand, with some models showing it veering down on the top of the North Island just before Christmas.
WeatherWatch.co.nz said winds were now sustained at 200km/h as the storm made a beeline for the archipelago.
It warned coastal regions could expect to be swamped near the centre of the storm.
The Fiji Government just announced power would be shut down so urgent powerline maintenance can be carried out for safety and security of power in the long terms.
Aid agencies and neighbouring governments are now preparing for a disaster and are urging people to take precautions to keep themselves safe.
The forecaster said the approaching cyclone – the first of the season – was not a good set up for Fiji.
“Various models show little disagreement about the timing and tracking – although the precise tracking varies from hitting the western side to the northeastern side of the Fiji islands. Either way, Fiji is smack bang in the firing line based on all reliable modelling and data today,” said WeatherWatch.co.nz.
Yasa was likely to take over 24 hours to pass over the islands, which increased the chance of damage, said the forecaster.
“A storm this powerful can destroy buildings, uproot trees, strip trees of leaves, cause slips, flooding and coastal inundation.
“Yasa is a life-threatening event for those in low lying islands in the Fiji group.”
WeatherWatch.co.nz said the main risk for Fiji would be from Thursday afternoon until Saturday morning based on modelling and all in Fiji should be listening to local authorities and even evacuating now to higher ground.
Yesterday, a second tropical cyclone, Zazu, was identified in the South Pacific.
Cyclone Zazu is tracking at sea between Tonga and the Cook Islands and according to weatherwatch.co.nz does not pose a threat to New Zealand.
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