SYDNEY/WELLINGTON (Reuters) – A powerful cyclone that hit New Caledonia late on Monday and shuttered nickel operations has moved offshore, allowing authorities to lift warnings on the French South Pacific territory.
Four people received minor injuries in the storm and a search is being conducted for two missing people, New Caledonia’s Civil Defence and Risk Management agency said in a statement.
Resident Gael Toukio said electricity and telephone services had been cut.
“Every gust of wind made my house tremble,” Toukio told Reuters by text message from the capital city of Noumea.
The main island was hit by winds of up to 180 km per hour (111.8 mph) and more than 400mm (15.75 inches) of rain on Monday, the meteorological service said in a statement, in conditions that saw roads blocked by uprooted coconut trees and a halt of the country’s large nickel mining industry.
The bureau lifted a general warning on Tuesday, while the Civil Defence agency said around 70,000 people were without electricity.
Vale suspended nickel operations and evacuated staff on Monday. It is restarting on Tuesday, a spokesman said.
The New Caledonia weather bureau said the weather system – which peaked at a category-three event – has since weakened and is expected to track towards New Zealand over the next few days.
(Reporting by Colin Packham in SYDNEY and Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON. Additional reporting by Tom Westbrook and Melanie Burton. Writing by Jonathan Barrett.; Editing by Stephen Coates)
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