Tropical cyclone Yasa caused a landslide in Fiji on Thursday afternoon, with winds of 240 kmph (149 mph) equivalent to Type 4 hurricane on the Sapphire-Simpson hurricane scale. This is the second time this year that the Fiji Archipelago has experienced a direct landslide from a major tropical cyclone.
Local officials have warned that the possible impact of the storm could be catastrophic.
Prime Minister Frank Pinemarama said in a video posted on Facebook that the country has ordered a 14-hour curfew across the country from 4pm (10pm and ET Wednesday), urging people living in low-lying areas to go to higher ground before nightfall.
“The impact of this super storm is more or less on the whole country,” Pinemarama said in the video.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that even well-built homes can suffer “severe damage” as a result of winds of more than 200 km (124 mi), which can cause trees and power poles to fall, causing destruction and disruption.
Pineimarama said Yasa would “easily surpass” the strength of Hurricane Winston in 2016, recording the southern hemisphere’s most intense tropical storm, killing more than 40 Fijians and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
More than 850,000 Fijians, or 95% of the population, live in the direct path of Yasa, according to Pinemarama, where weather forecasts predict flash flooding and “severe coastal submergence”, including waves up to 10 meters (33 feet) high.
The country’s National Disaster Management Office said police would enforce a ban on public transport, declaring the country a “natural disaster state” and empowering law enforcement officials.
At 8pm on Thursday (2am), Yasa’s epicenter was estimated to be 100 km (62 miles) east of the village of Yasawa-i-Rara, with a population of 15,000 on Puja, Fiji’s fifth most populous province. , The office said.
Strong hurricanes have been on the rise in the Pacific in recent years, with Pinemarama slowing climate change. Earlier this year, he blamed global warming for worsening wildfires in Australia and severe storms in the Pacific.
“My fellow Fijians, these storms are intensifying as the world warms. Each of us must treat these climate-fuel disasters with deadly seriousness,” Pinemarama wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday.
Additional report by CNN’s Angus Watson and meteorologist Taylor Ward.