Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

Several homes in Rennell destroyed as storm moves off

By Ednal Palmer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, March 16, 2010) - Cylcone Ului has moved away from the country yesterday, leaving behind a trail of moderate damage to some homes in Rennell.

Director of the Meteorological service David Hiriasia said cyclone Ului pat past Rennell and out yesterday but intensified on its way into the Coral Sea to Queensland, Australia.

"Cyclone Ului continues to move westward from the country at a slow speed of 6 knots, but gain strength this afternoon (yesterday)," Mr Hiriasia said.

He said as of yesterday afternoon its position was 100 nautical miles South West of Rennell and should made landfall in parts of Queensland today.

The cyclone still packed winds gusting up to 145 knots (270 kilometres) an hour near its centre, as it moved out yesterday.

But the cyclone was moving westwards into open sea and Rennell and nearby Bellona Islands experienced winds of up to 63 knots.

National Disasater Management Office says more than 10 dwelling houses in different villages on Rennell Island have either been destroyed or damaged by cyclone Ului.

However, the number is expected to increase as Bellona also reported damages to houses but yet to give figures.

Several kitchens have also been damaged on the two islands including Makira and Guadalcanal weather coasts.

Some reports on the Weather coast of Guadalcanal also reported a few houses and gardens being washed away by waves.

However, no casualties or injuries have been reported by all the provinces.

The NDMO is still collecting reports from areas affected by cyclone Ului which is now moving away from the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands Met Service is still forecasting bad weather around the country in the next two days.

Meanwhile, the NDMO is also trying to verify reports about a big wave which inundated Toraa village in the Star Harbour area, east Makira, at 4 o’clock early yesterday morning.

The report said the wave destroyed a kitchen and damaged two others in the village as well as inundating two nearby villages including Mami on the other side of the island.

It added the wave upturned big stones in the sea and downed several coconut trees.

Onebia on west Makira on the other hand also reported waves inundating the village at 9 o’clock, also yesterday morning.

Arrangements for rapid assessment teams have been completed but their mobilization is still restricted by the ongoing bad weather.

Met Director Mr Hiriasia said 17 warnings have been issued by the met service in the wake of the cyclone.

He said the current weak elnino has increased the number of cyclones this season.

Cyclone Ului developed into a cyclone on Saturday close to Vanuatu.

Mr Hiriasia said thy have been keeping an eye on it since it became a low pressure on Tuesday last week.

Cyclone Tomas which hit parts of Fiji yesterday also moved east to New Zealand.

He warned that even if the cyclones moved out, threats still remain.

"Strong winds associated with rain will continue so people need to be wary of this and listen out for warnings."

In the meantime, the Queensland weather office says cyclone Ului poses no immediate threat to the Queensland coast.

Cyclone Ului has weakened from a category five to a category four and is about 1470km northeast of Mackay yesterday.

"It's still over the Coral Sea just to the south of the Solomon Islands, so it's well offshore," Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Michelle Berry said.

"It has weakened somewhat in the last few hours but we are anticipating it will reintensify, possibly into a category five again, early tomorrow but it will still be well offshore."

She said the cyclone was expected to maintain its slow track westward over the next 24 to 36 hours, remaining well off the Queensland coast.

"Beyond that period, it could then take on a more southerly path," she said, adding its long term direction was very unpredictable.

"We will continue to monitor it carefully until we get more of a consensus on where it could move."

In Fiji yesterday, Cyclone Tomas was about 185km northeast of the town of Labasa on the northern island of Vanua Levu.

"Fiji has not faced a cyclone this strong lately, and we are not taking this thing lightly," Fiji Disaster Management Office director Pajiliai Dobui told Radio New Zealand.

There were power cuts on Vanua Levu and damage to houses on outlying islands as the cyclone approached.

Tomas was estimated to have average winds of 170km/h and was expected to intensify to 205km/h over the next 12 to 24 hours, the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) said.

Australian tourists were among a number of people evacuated from Plantation Resort on the island of Malolo LaiLai to Fiji's largest island, Viti Levu, on Sunday.

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