WELLINGTON (AFP) - Nearly 2,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Fiji as Tropical Cyclone Sarai lashed the Pacific island nation with heavy rain and destructive winds on Saturday (Dec 28).
Packing wind gusts up to 140kmh, Sarai has brought down trees and cut power supplies while stranding thousands of holidaymakers as flights to and from Fiji were either cancelled or rescheduled.
New Zealander Melonie Sheppard, who is holidaying on Mana Island to the west of mainland Fiji, described the situation as "scary" and said their resort was in lockdown.
"We're being hammered by intense winds and horizontal rains. The resort is providing packed meals and water direct to rooms when they can," she told the New Zealand Herald.
"Wind is howling and tree debris flying about, doors and windows shaking, huge waves rolling into shore. Water now leaking into some rooms - it's a bit scary at times."
The Fiji government issued a statement warning of "destructive force winds with... coastal sea flooding to be expected".
The Fiji National Disaster Management Office said as of mid-morning on Saturday, 1,970 people had sought emergency shelter and there had been no reports of any injuries.
Office director Vasiti Soko said emergency crews were assisting people in low-lying areas to evacuate to higher ground.
On its present track, the cyclone is forecast to pass adjacent to Fiji's main island Viti Levu, then across Fiji's southern islands, before heading towards Tonga, which has activated its tropical cyclone warning centre with the storm expected to arrive late on Sunday.