AFAP manages the Australian-Pacific Centre for Emergency and Disaster Information (APCEDI) to provide news on natural disaster events in the Asia-Pacific region and to help with rapid disaster response assessment. This was originally a communications network that was activated during a disaster to disseminate information to our Asia-Pacific NGO offices. Now APCEDI has a much wider application across the Asia-Pacific Region.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

APCEDI Alert 07P, Cyclone Heta #4, 2004

Dear Colleagues

Alert #4 / 04 January 2004, Sydney 18:00 EDT

Cyclone Heta has been slowly moving to the southwest which moves it farther away from Samoa, but now closer to the French Territory of Wallis and Futuna.

All warnings have now been discontinued for Tokelau although they are still experiencing intermittent squalls and heavy rains. Heta’s centre is now 350 km southwest of Nukunonu.

Given the increasing western component of its track, Heta tonight and tomorrow is set to start passing between Wallis Island and Savai’i, Samoa’s western-most island probably as a Category 2 storm. It is currently a strong Category 1 storm. Cyclone warnings have recently gone up for Wallis Island with the cyclone centred 230 kms to the northeast. Cyclone warnings continue for Samoa with Heta approximately 230 kms northwest and expected to be as close as 100 km west of the island by tomorrow afternoon. Again the level of damage to both Wallis and Samoa’s main islands will be closely related to the track and intensity. If the storm passes equidistantly between Wallis and Savai’i, as a Category 2 storm, then damage should be small to moderate and mostly to crops, power supply and insecure structures. However, if the storm veers more closely to one group, the damage could be expected to be more on the moderate side.

Again it should be noted that the forward speed will also be a critical factor as a slow moving storm could cause significant flash flooding on Savai’i and Upolu which have rugged mountainous relief as well as to Tutila in American Samoa. As the storm passes to the west, the north facing slopes and valleys would be most at risk although flash floods could occur anywhere if the storm has a slow forward motion. All people in Samoa should keep on alert and listen to official announcements which are already urging people to take precautionary measures. AFAP’s Samoa Office, OLSSI, will monitor the situation and bring regular reports if communications permit.

Tonga continues to be next in line. On its current predicted course, the main southern groups of Tonga would be largely spared, but the northern outliers of Niuafo’ou, Tafahi and Niuatoputapu could receive a direct hit with the storm at Category 2-3. Niuatoputapu is the most vulnerable given its easterly position. This could cause moderate to significant damage to these sparsely inhabited islands especially to crops and insecure structures. A shift in course could westward could also affect the Vava’u Group. Cyclone watches have been issued for all these groups. AFAP’s Tonga Office, Tonga Trust, will likewise monitor the situation.

Lastly on its current predicted course, Niue is still in position to receive a direct hit with the storm at Category 2. New Zealand officials are monitoring the storm closely and will take measures in the next few days should the threat increase to Niue.

More detailed information about the storm can be found on

Kevin Vang
APCEDI Coordinator

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