(EP) The small islands of Fulaga, Ogea, Vatoa and Ono-i-Lau are warned to expect destructive storm force winds of up to 140 kilometers an hour. The system, which at its centers has average winds of 150 kilometers an hour and gusts of more than 200 kilometers and hour, is forecast to move southwest between the islands of Kabara and Ono-i-Lau. The cyclone has slowed and by about 10 o’clock tonight it is forecast to get within about 70 kilometers of Ono-i-Lau.

Fiji’s education ministry has advised all school evacuation centers to be on standby for immediate activation. Hurricane force winds and phenomenal seas are forecast for the area within 25 kilometers of Ula’s centre. Tonga’s state of emergency issued for Vava’u and Ha’apai remains in force. The Deputy Prime Minister, Siaosi Sovaleni, who is the Chairman of the National Emergency Management Committee, says Ula caused no casualties. He says almost 400 people had been moved to evacuation centers to protect them against the storm. The director of Tonga Met, ‘Ofa Fa’anunu, says forecasters were surprised that Ula sustained its strength. He says had there been more moisture, the cyclone could have developed into a category five system. SOURCE