SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Caledonia was bracing for high winds, massive waves, and heavy rain as a powerful cyclone bore down on the French South Pacific territory on Monday.
Cyclone Cook had already swept through Vanuatu as a Category one storm over the weekend, causing flooding.
The storm was forecast to strengthen to a destructive Category four, one rung below the most dangerous wind speed level, before it makes landfall in New Caledonia on Monday afternoon local time, Fiji’s Meteorological Service predicted.
The storm was expected to hit the main island’s north almost at the same time as high tide, with winds of up to 200 km per hour (124 miles per hour). Flooding rain and waves as tall as 10 meters (33 feet) have been forecast by New Caledonian authorities.
“The threat to New Caledonia is very serious,” the territory’s meteorological service said in a cyclone alert bulletin on Monday.
Flights from the main airport at Noumea will be canceled on Monday evening, a spokeswoman said in a telephone interview.
In Vanuatu, where Cyclone Cook had already passed through, no injuries were reported and the storm did little damage to property, but low-lying areas were evacuated as floodwaters rose, the Vanuatu Daily Post reported.
Cyclone Cook was intensifying as the threat from Cyclone Debbie, which struck Australia and New Zealand, dissipated.[nL3N1HE5EP]
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)