Fiji opens evacuation centres as Cyclone Tino hits

SUVA, Fiji (AFP) — Fiji opened evacuation centers and warned of “destructive force winds” as Tropical Cyclone Tino took aim at the Pacific island nation on Friday.

The Fiji Meteorological Service said the cyclone was approaching from the north and strengthening as it headed for Fiji’s second-largest island, Vanua Levu.

“We have told them to be prepared, the Ministry of Education has shut down all schools, the evacuation centers are open as well. So, everyone, they are aware that there’s a system around,” forecaster Stephen Meke told Radio New Zealand.

Wind gusts of up to 130 kilometers per hour (81mph) were forecast with warnings of heavy rain, coastal flooding and flash flooding in low lying areas.

Fiji Airways said it has canceled several regional fights while adjusting the times of some international services.

Although the Pacific islands are popular tourist destinations in summer it is also the cyclone season, and Fiji is being targeted for the second time in three weeks.

Just after Christmas, Tropical Cyclone Sarai left two people dead and more than 2,500 needing emergency shelter as it damaged houses, crops and trees, and cut electricity supplies.

On its present track, Tino would hit Tongatapu, the main island of neighboring Tonga, on the weekend.

Two years ago, Tongatapu was hit by Cyclone Gina, with two people killed and nearly 200 houses destroyed.

© Agence France-Presse