Cyclone on track to strike New Zealand

Last updated 13:13 26/01/2011

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A severe tropical cyclone roaring down the Pacific towards New Zealand is expected to approach Cape Reinga early on Saturday, with the centre of the low-pressure system tracking over Northland later in the weekend.

Cyclone Wilma formed east of Samoa last Saturday, and the Fiji Meteorological Service predicts it will now reach category 4 strength, considered "very severe" with winds gusting between 225kmh and 279kmh, over the next day.

The cyclone, with sustained winds at 170kmh and gusts estimated well over 210kmh, yesterday passed over Tonga, causing damage to resorts and crops.

But like last week's two cyclones Zelia and Vania, the strength of Wilma is expected to decrease by the time it reaches New Zealand.

The Fiji Meteorological Service predicted Wilma would have Category 2 strength winds by the weekend with no certainty it would bring the same rain and wind as Zelia last weekend.

"It's a very different system compared to the past weekend's sub-tropical storm. While that storm was growing and strengthening, Wilma will be weakening and falling apart".

But WeatherWatch analyst Philip Duncan said that cyclones packed a greater punch near their centre.

"If you imagine the tropics as a giant cricket bat and the cyclone as the ball, Wilma is being walloped towards us," he said. "It doesn't pose a danger to everyone in the stadium but for one group of people there's a significant risk".

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- NZPA

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