Fiji yesterday opened evacuation centers and authorities warned of “destructive-force winds” as a cyclone bore down on the Pacific island nation for the second time in three weeks.
Two people were missing after attempting to swim across a swollen river late on Thursday, when heavy rain fell ahead of approaching Cyclone Tino, police said.
On the outer islands, locals prepared to go to emergency shelters while many tourists fled beach resorts and made their way to the capital, Suva, before regional flights and interisland ferry services were suspended.
The Fiji Meteorological Service said that Tino was strengthening as it headed for Fiji’s second-largest island, Vanua Levu, warning of wind gusts of up to 130kph, heavy rain, coastal flooding and flash flooding in low lying areas.
“I’m preparing to go to an evacuation center soon with my family and wait for the cyclone to pass,” said Nischal Prasad, who lost his home in northern Vanua Legu when Cyclone Sarai struck just after Christmas.
“Sarai destroyed my house and almost left my family homeless. My daughters had to hide under their bed from the strong winds. It was a scary experience,” he said.
Russian tourist Inna Kostromina, 35, said that she sought safety in Suva after being told her island resort was in the path of the cyclone.
“We didn’t want to get stuck in there and with the authorities warning of coastal flooding, anything can happen. So we decided to move to Suva for now. I think we will be much safer here,” she said.
Police said that a man and his daughter, believed to be aged nine or 10, were attempting to swim across a flooded river when they were caught in the strong currents.
The incident happened before the storm developed into a tropical cyclone, but a police spokesman linked the tragedy to “heavy rain brought about by the current weather system, [which] raised the river level.”
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.
Late last month, 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, this weekend.
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