From Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai'i
NOUMEA, New Caledonia (RNZI, January 31) - Parts of New Caledonia were on alert as Cyclone Beni moved in a southeast direction at about 15 kilometers an hour. But weather experts said the storm was weakening and may move away from the islands.
Wind speeds were estimated at about 100 kilometers an hour and initial fears of damage lessened.
A warning was also in place for Vanuatu, with the capital Port Vila and southern islands advised to expect destructive storm force winds.
Earlier today, the cyclone was reported about 200 kilometers north of Ouvea in the Loyalty Islands land at midday it was northwest of Tanna Island.
Beni has average winds of 185 kilometers an hour with gusts up to 280 kilometers an hour close to its center.
A heightened alert had been declared for the New Caledonian mainland.
School holiday's camps in the Noumea area have been closed and military reinforcements have been sent to the Loyalty Islands ahead of Beni's arrival.
The cyclone is expected to curve south and then southwest, crossing the Loyalty Islands by tomorrow morning before passing close to Noumea.