The government is warning of flash flooding and waves up to two stories high in areas with populations of more than 850,000, or 95 percent of Fijians.
The government of Fiji issued a nationwide curfew on Thursday, including a ban on public transport, with a potentially devastating cyclone expected to unleash powerful winds and flooding on the island within a day.
Cyclone Yasa, a category five storm, is expected to bring wind speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour (155 miles per hour) and torrential rains over the South Pacific archipelago when it makes landfall by early Friday.
The country ordered a nationwide 2 p.m. curfew from 4 p.m. (4 a.m. GMT) urging people living in low-lying areas to move to higher ground before nightfall, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said in a video that was posted on Facebook.
“The impact for this superstorm is more or less nationwide,” Bainimarama said in the video.
Yasa would “easily surpass the strength of Cyclone Winston of 2016,” he added, referring to the most intense tropical storm in the Southern Hemisphere on record, killing more than 40 Fijians and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
More than 850,000 Fijians, or 95 percent of the population, live in Yasa’s direct path, Bainimarama said, adding that weather forecasts anticipated flash floods and “severe coastal flooding” with waves up to 10 meters high.
‘The world is heating up’
Police would enforce a ban on public transportation, the country’s National Disaster Management Office said, adding that the country had declared a “state of natural disaster”, giving law enforcement agencies more powers.
Thursday at 8 p.m. (8 a.m. GMT), the center of Yasa is expected to be 100 km east of the village of Yasawa-i-Rara and possibly more than Fiji’s fifth-most populous province of Bua, home to 15,000 people. , the office said.
Shelters for potential evacuees have been set up and people living on the coast have been advised to seek higher areas.
Many homes in Fiji are made of wood or corrugated iron, materials that make them particularly vulnerable to storms.
Hence the call to seek refuge in schools, churches or even containers.
Bainimarama had long been committed to the fight against global warming and once again blamed the rise in temperature on these powerful cyclones, which were previously much rarer.
“The world is heating up and these storms are strengthening it,” he complained. “Each of us must take these climate-induced disasters seriously.”