Thousands evacuated as cyclone hits Fiji

SUVA: A powerful cyclone packing sustained winds of 175 km an hour smashed into Fiji today, damaging homes and crops and forcing thousands of people to flee to evacuation centres.

Cyclone Tomas was classified as a category-four cyclone — the second-most destructive on a five-point scale — the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) said, with gusts that wreaked havoc across the north of the country.

There were no early reports of casualties, although officials confirmed that a woman drowned over the weekend in

heavy seas as the storm approached.

The cyclone was reported to be generating waves up to 24 feet high and shipping was warned to stay away from the area.

It was expected to intensify later today and into early tomorrow, with average wind speeds rising to 200 km an hour, with gusts up to 270 km an hour.

The head of Fiji’s Disaster Management Office, Pajiliai Dobui, said about 5,000 people had moved into evacuation centres in the north of the country.