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Flights cancelled as Fiji braced for Cyclone Winston

Published 20/02/2016

The island is braced for winds of up to 180mph
The island is braced for winds of up to 180mph

The Pacific island nation of Fiji is preparing for the arrival of a cyclone with winds of up to 186mph.

Cyclone Winston is forecast to pass between the two main populated islands overnight.

Many domestic and international flights have been cancelled, while authorities have urged people to secure their homes and not venture outside.

Prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama wrote on Facebook that the island's evacuation centres are operational and that the government is prepared to deal with a potential crisis.

"As a nation, we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind," he wrote. "We must stick together as a people and look after each other."

He said he was concerned some people in the cities were not taking the threat seriously enough.

The US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre said gusts from the cyclone were reaching 224 mph.

The Fiji Times newspaper reported some damage, including a roof being blown off one home, from some of the nation's smaller islands to the east as the cyclone began to strike there.

The Times said there had been a run on supermarkets and stores as people stocked up on essential supplies and that a 5pm curfew had been placed on all public transportation, including buses, minibuses and taxis.

It is hoped that the cyclone's path would remain as forecast and thread between the islands of Vanua Levu to the north and Vitu Levu to the south, which is home to the capital, Suva, so that both islands would avoid a direct hit.

Fiji is home to about 900,000 people.

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