Hundreds take shelter as Fiji braces for another cyclone

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WELLINGTON, April 7, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Hundreds of people were sheltering in evacuation centres as another tropical storm took aim at Fiji, officials said Saturday, as the South Pacific island nation went on high alert.

The storm was brewing east of Vanuatu and was expected to strengthen as it neared Fiji early next week.

“The concern for the weekend is strong winds, heavy rain, flooding of low lying areas and rivers,” the Fiji Meteorological Service said in a statement.

It comes a week after Cyclone Josie caused widespread flooding and left five people dead with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama blaming climate change and warning Fiji had entered a “frightening new era”.

National Disaster Management Office director Anare Leweniqila told Radio New Zealand the weather system has the potential to develop into a category one cyclone.

“A cyclone warning has been issued early for the whole of the Fiji group as the tropical depression approaches the country, making people aware of the situation early,” he said as heavy rain saw flood waters begin to rise again.

By noon Saturday (0000 GMT), flooding had forced hundreds of people to take shelter in evacuation centres in the north and west of Fiji.

“At about 6 am this morning, our area was flooded and we started preparing ourselves because police had arrived to take us to the evacuation centre,” Laisa Vunitiko, from the village of Vulovi on Vanua Levu island, told the Fiji Times.

The Times said 490 families had taken shelter in the north while the National Disaster Management Office reported 192 people were in evacuation centres in the west.

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