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Tropical Cyclone Winston: The biggest cyclone in years has 'begun its assault' on Fiji

Fiji is bracing itself for an epic cyclone.

Tropical Cyclone Winston, a category five cyclone, has already hit the outer islands of the South Pacific country with winds of up to 220 kilometres per hour and gusts reaching 315 kilometres per hour, according to the Fiji Meteorological Service.

The cyclone is expected to reach Suva, the capital of Fiji, on Saturday night.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has since “urged people to stick together” warning the country that “we cannot afford to be complacent”.

“Tropical Cyclone Winston has begun its assault on Fiji. It is being described as one of the powerful in recorded history – a Category 5 cyclone with winds approaching 300 kilometres an hour. As a nation, we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We must stick together as a people and look after each other. Be alert and be prepared,” he said.

He also encouraged citizens to finalise their preparations and to secure their property whilst making sure that they had “adequate food and water, flashlights, candles and lanterns in case the power supply is disrupted and a battery operated radio to keep abreast of news of Cyclone Winston’s progress”.

Here’s a view of the cyclone which is already impacting Fiji:

…and the latest forecast track map:

The ABC reports that the cyclone passed Tonga’s Vava’u earlier this week as a category two cyclone but then progressed into a category four cyclone, causing the loss of ten homes and damage to another 200 homes as well as the agricultural sector such as fruit crops.

A tropical cyclone warning is now in place for Lomaiviti group, Taveuni, Eastern half of Viti-Levu, Kadavu and nearby smaller islands, according to the Fiji Meteorological Service.

Meanwhile, storms warnings have been issued for Lakeba, Oneata, Moce, Komo, Namuka, Nayau, Ogea and Vanuavatu.

“That is a possibility that we cannot eliminate right now, that is the reason for us issuing a hurricane warning in terms of swells and heavy rain,” Fiji meteorologist Misaeli Funaki told the ABC.

Around 758 evacuation centres have been set up by the government for those seeking refuge from the cyclone.

The Land Transport Authority has also advised “that all public transportation including buses; taxi; mini bus and carrier to cease movement at 5pm today for public safety reason”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is warning Australians to reconsider travelling to Fiji saying the cyclone “is likely to significantly affect Fiji, including the capital Suva, from 20 February. You should expect high winds, heavy rains and storm surges in coastal areas.”

Virgin Australia has already cancelled all flights in and out of Nadi today due to unsuitable conditions for flying with Monday’s flights still under review.

Cancelled flights for Saturday 20 February:

  • VA181 SYD-NAN STD 0830L
  • VA180 NAN-SYD STD 1435L
  • VA175 BNE-NAN STD 0930L
  • VA176 NAN-BNE STD 1600L
  • VA185 MEL-NAN STD 0945L
  • VA184 NAN-MEL STD 1635L

Cancelled flights for Sunday 21 February:

  • VA181 SYD-NAN STD 0830L
  • VA180 NAN-SYD STD 1435L
  • VA185 MEL-NAN STD 0945L
  • VA184 NAN-MEL STD 1635L
  • VA175 BNE-NAN STD 0900L
  • VA176 NAN-BNE STD 1530L

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