Thousands take shelter in Fiji as cyclone nears

14:40, March 15, 2010      

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More than 5,000 people were sheltering at evacuation centers in Fiji's northern island of Vanua Levu on Monday as Cyclone Tomas approaches.

The Nadi Weather Center said on Monday the cyclone had intensified overnight and was now a Category 4 system.

At midday on Monday, the storm was 185 km/h north-east of Labasa and 390 km north-east of Suva with winds of up to 175 km/h.

Fiji's capital Suva was battened down on Monday as the national weather office forecasts one of the strongest ever tropical cyclone to hit the island nation in almost 40 years.

Fiji's 22,000 civil service was told to stay home and schools throughout the Pacific island country closed as the category 4 tropical cyclone intensified in strength.

The National Disaster Council (DISMAC), activated last Friday, has been working around the clock to advise people to prepare for the onslaught of cyclone Tomas.

DISMAC has warned people on the outer islands located on the path of the cyclone, especially those on the coast to move to higher grounds because of expected floods.

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