Tropical Cyclone Yasa has reached Category 5 level on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale as it approaches Fiji, with winds of up to 260 kilometers per hour (160 miles per hour). Only 24 hours ago it was at Category 1, and local officials have warned the potential effect of the storm could be devastating.
Yasa may strengthen more over the next 12 hours, before weakening slightly as it approaches Fiji in about 36 hours. Even so, the storm is still expected to be extremely strong when it reaches the country on Thursday night local time (Thursday morning ET).
In addition to winds over 200 kph (125 mph), the storm will also bring over 250 mm (10 inches) of rainfall, which can trigger flooding and landslides. The extreme intensity of the storm will lead to very rough seas and storm surge capable of flooding low-lying coastal communities.
The scale estimates potential property damage, and NOAA warns that even well built homes could face “severe damage” as a result of winds over 200 kph, while trees and power poles could be downed, bringing more destruction and disruption.
While Yasa is bearing down on Fiji, another tropical cyclone, Zazu, has just passed north of Tonga, but brought little to no impact to the islands.
Zazu is equivalent to a strong tropical storm with winds of 100 kph (62 mph). No additional landmasses are in its path and the storm is expected to dissipate over the next day or two.
With every additional degree of average global warming, the scale and frequency of wildfires will increase exponentially, as will the intensity of heat-driven tropical cyclones,” Bainimarama said.
CNN’s James Griffiths and Michael Guy contributed reporting from Hong Kong.