February 4, 2010 / 8:28 PM / 9 years ago

Cyclone Oli hits French Polynesia

PAPEETE, France, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Cyclone Oli hit French Polynesia on Thursday, forcing hundreds of people living on the coast to be evacuated, hitting transport and driving tourists into temporary shelters.

Authorities told residents to stay indoors as winds of up to 200 km (125 miles) an hour threw up waves of up to 7 metres (23 ft).

On Tahiti, the main island in the vast and widely spread South Pacific ocean territory, several hundred people were forced to abandon houses near the shore overnight although the impact was lessening as the storm moved away.

Roads were closed to all traffic apart from the emergency services and harbours and airports were closed.

Witnesses quoted by French radio said roofs had been blown from housetops and at least one boat had been sunk in the storm. Several people were hurt slightly but there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

According to the French weather service, air pressure at the heart of the storm was expected to decline, increasing the violence of the cyclone and creating winds averaging 175 km (110 miles) an hour with gusts of up to 250 km (155 miles) an hour.

The cyclone, moving at around 20 km (12 miles) an hour is expected to progress in a southeasterly direction towards the islands of Tubai and Mataura. (Reporting by Daniel Pardon; writing by James Mackenzie)

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