Category 2 Cyclone Sarai strengthens as gale-force winds, heavy rain cause power outages in Fiji

Tropical Cyclone Sarai continues to batter Fiji, with gale-force winds, heavy rain and large waves causing power outages and flooding across the country.

Now upgraded to a category 2 system, the storm hit Nadi on Saturday morning, and Fiji's MetService said it is on track to reach Kadavu Island later today.

Average wind speeds of 100 km/h are expected for the area, along with thunderstorms and heavy rain. Flash flood warnings are also in place for low lying areas and small streams.

While Fiji continues to grapple with the storm, a New Zealand MetService forecaster says the cyclone may reach Tonga next.

"We're expecting storm- to gale-force winds to affect much of the southern island groups and some of the main islands of Fiji. In a few days' time, the system is heading towards Tonga," Matthew Ford said.

The dark red circle shows where "very destructive" winds are, and the numbered path with arrows shows the storm's forecast direction.
The dark red circle shows where "very destructive" winds are, and the numbered path with arrows shows the storm's forecast direction. Photo credit: Fiji Met Service

More flights cancelled

Air New Zealand cancelled two flights to and from Nadi on Saturday morning, and said it anticipates more disruption over the coming days.

Passengers from these cancelled flights can travel at a later date within one week of their original scheduled flight with no penalty fare. They can also travel to a different destination but pay a fare difference.

There are no refunds for fares, or cover for incidental costs.

House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said travellers' changes will depend on the cyclone.

"These cyclones can be extremely dangerous and people need to adhere to what the authorities are saying," he said.

"Once they've given the all-clear, then we can work out how we get people back to New Zealand, given that there will now be a backlog of people to clear from Fiji."

Thomas recommends people stay in regular contact with their airline and travel agent.

"Typically, airlines are quite accommodating in that regard - if people can move their travel back a day or two then we can fix that. But then of course, we've got to get the hotels lined up, car rentals or sightseeing or transfers as well," he said.

New Zealanders in Fiji are asked to update their SafeTravel information or register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Power outages across Fiji

New Zealander Justin Sutherland is in Ba Town on Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island, and says residents have no power and are unsure when it will be turned back on.

He said this makes it hard to access drinking water.

"Most of them have got boreholes, but they need power from the pump. Most people filled their tanks yesterday before the power went off. But other than that, power is what they require to get water."

Sutherland said power lines have been knocked down and the winds remain strong.

"We were up most of the night and there was heavy rain, a lot of wind. You could hear roofing iron blowing around."

Fifteen evacuation centres across Fiji are housing more than 300 people as they hunker down while the cyclone hits.