Dangerous Cyclone Yasa Could Wipe Some Pacific Islands Off the Map, Warn Experts

Authorities have urged an estimated 600,000 people in Fiji to flee to an evacuation center or prepare and reinforce their homes.

Hundreds of thousands of people living in South Pacific country Fiji are asked to leave their homes and brace for one of the most destructive tropical cyclones to hit the island nation. The dangerous cyclone is expected to hit the country's two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, and smaller islands of Rotuma, Yasawa, and Mamanuca.

The tropical cyclone Yasa, which is a category five storm with a wind speed of up to 260 kilometers per hour, is expected to make landfall on Thursday afternoon or overnight, said WeatherWatch. The meteorologists called this cyclone "intimidating", while WeatherWatch managing director Philip Duncan said it is a "very serious tropical cyclone...potentially the strongest, earliest hurricane we've ever seen in the South Pacific".

Cyclone Yasa
Tropical cyclone Yasa weatherwatch.co.nz

Life-threatening Storm

According to Fiji Meteorological Service, as of Thursday morning December 17, the cyclone Yasa was sitting 140 kilometers north-west of Yasawa, an archipelago in Fiji, and 245 Kilometres northwest of Nadi, a town in Viti Levu. It is currently tracking between Vanua Levu and Viti Levu. But in recent hours, the cyclone has been leaning more east toward Vanua Levu. Authorities have issued a heavy rain warning for entire Fiji and flash flood warnings are in place as deluges of water engulf entire roads in both the islands.

"A storm this powerful can destroy buildings, uproot trees, strip trees of leaves, cause slips, flooding and coastal inundation," said Duncan and warned that the cyclone Yasa is a "life-threatening event for those in low-lying islands in the Fiji group".

According to WeatherWatch, this storm has the ability to "swamp entire islands, inundate entire coastal communities, wipe some small islands off the map entirely," and destroy buildings, bring down trees, as well as cause flooding.

Cyclone Yasa
Cyclone Yasa Google Map

Fijians on Alert

Fiji has closed schools and halted the public transport service. Authorities are expecting interruption in electricity and freshwater availability for several days following Yasa. An estimated 600,000 Fijian people are urged to flee to an evacuation center or prepare and reinforce their homes.

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama urged the Fijians to use "this time to trim tree branches, clean drains, board up homes, prepare emergency kits, and take other steps to keep your homes and community safe".

"Let's remember Cyclone Harold [a category five cyclone to hit Fiji in April]. At the last minute, it ramped up in strength and ended up being worse than predicted. Do not be caught off guard by this latest storm", he added.