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.

Monday, January 05, 2004

APCEDI Alert 07P, Cyclone Heta #5, 2004

Dear Colleagues

Alert #5 / 05 January 2004, Sydney 09:00 EDT

Cyclone Heta rapidly gained strength overnight and is now a dangerous Category 4 storm. It has however picked up some forward speed and is now moving south-southeast at 9 knots. The centre now lies equidistant between Wallis Island and Savai’i, Samoa’s western-most island. This is actually the best possible scenario for both islands as it means that neither one will receive the full brunt of the storm. However, now that the overall strength has increased, both Wallis and Savai’i will likely get significant gales and rain which could cause moderate to locally significant damage. Moderate to locallly severe damage particularly to crops, insecure dwellings and power supplies is possible for Wallis and Savai’i and Upolu. For Futuna and the islands of American Samoa, some serious squalls and gales should be expected but damage should be minimal to locally moderate. Again it should be noted that the forward speed continues to be a critical factor as the storm is still slow moving, and this 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. Then as the storm passes to the southwest, the western slopes and valleys will be hard hit. However, forward motion is expected to increase today. 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.

All warnings have now been discontinued for Tokelau although they are still experiencing intermittent squalls and heavy rains.

As Heta heads on a predicted southeast course tonight, the storm should pass equidistant between Savai’i and the northern Tongan outliers of Tafahi and Niuatoputapu. Again if this equidistance is achieved, neither area will bear the full brunt of the Category 4 winds which is the best possible scenario for both groups. However the southeast recurvature close to Savai’i means that this island and Upolu to a lesser extent will get torrential rains which could continue to exascerbate flash flooding.

On its current predicted course, Niue is still in position to receive a direct hit from the storm possibly at Category 3-4, and the real serious damage from this storm may be at this time as a direct hit at Category 3-4 will result in serious damage throughout the island. Cyclone Warnings have been raised and preparations are now underway. 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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