Wed, Feb 16, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Samoan, Cook islands brace for `super cyclone'

TWIN TWISTERS Two powerful cyclones approaching the region pose a serious threat, so weather officials warned people to be prepared

AFP , Pago Pago, American Samoa

Residents of the Cook Islands, Samoa and American Samoa were warned Monday that they faced a "critically dangerous" situation as two major cyclones bore down on the south Pacific nations.

The Australian-Pacific Center for Emergency and Disaster Information said seven countries lay in the potential paths of major cyclones Nancy and Olaf, which were forecast to strike populated islands with damaging winds and high seas within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Cyclone Olaf was heading from the northwest towards Samoa and American Samoa and could have reached Category 5 "Super Cyclone" status by yesterday when it is forecast to hit the two neighboring countries, the center said. Cyclone Nancy was expected to be a strong Category 4 storm when it hits the southern Cook Islands, where residents are still cleaning up from another Category 4-plus cyclone, Meena, which struck on Feb. 6.

Nancy was predicted to strike the southern Cooks from the northeast yesterday and followed quickly by Olaf with category 4-to-5 gales.

Cyclones are rated on a scale from category 1 to 5 -- Category 5 being a "Super Cyclone" with sustained winds greater than 249kph.

"This is a critically dangerous situation for Samoa, American Samoa and the Southern Cooks," the center's officials said.

It said the small Cook Islands of Aitutaki and Palmerston and the main island of Raratonga were particularly at risk.

"Special attention should be taken along the coastal zone where much damage has already occurred from Cyclone Meena and seawalls and other structures may be damaged," it said.

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