17th Pacific Games To Kick Off Amidst Tropical Cyclone Threat as Athletes Started Arriving In Honiara
Athletes and officials have begun arriving in Honiara for the 17th Pacific Games, hosted by the Solomon Islands. Despite the looming threat of Tropical Cyclone Mal in the Pacific Region, participants from Cook Islands, Tahiti, Tonga, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, and New Caledonia safely reached Honiara on Monday, November 13. The first wave of representatives from the Fiji contingent are expected to land in Honiara today, Tuesday, November 14, 2023. The first contingent are now on their way to Honiara.
Meanwhile, the Fiji Meteorological Services reports that Category 1 tropical cyclone Mal was situated approximately 430 km west of Rotuma or 650 km northwest of Yasawa-i-Rara at 3 am this morning. It is currently moving rapidly in a southeasterly direction towards Fiji at a speed of 28 km/hr.
The cyclone is anticipated to pass close to the west of the Fiji Group tonight, with its center expected to be around 170 km west of Nadi at 3 am tomorrow morning. Destructive winds are expected to impact the Yasawa and Mamanuca Groups from later today, while the system is projected to start affecting Viti Levu from later this afternoon, with the most severe winds expected tonight.
Current projections suggest that it will be a Category 2 system, but on the higher end of this scale. Storm force winds are likely over the Yasawa and Mamanuca Groups, western and southern Viti Levu, Vatulele, Kadavu, and nearby smaller islands. Given the extensive reach of the system, a Gale Warning is in effect as far as western Vanua Levu (Dreketi, Bua to Savusavu), eastern Viti Levu, and the Lomaiviti Group.
These winds can result in broken tree branches, displace unsecured materials, disrupt communication networks and power supply due to damaged power lines, harm temporary and weak structures, heighten the risk of sea travel for all types of sea crafts, and elevate the danger of hazardous breaking waves and coastal inundation of debris along low-lying coastal areas, especially during high tides. The saturated ground from previous rainfall in parts of the country makes it susceptible to tree uprooting with minimal additional rainfall.
The trough of low pressure associated with Tropical Cyclone Mal is already causing substantial rainfall over the country, particularly in the Central Division. As a result, a Flash Flood Warning is in effect for parts of Suva and Lami, with a Flash Flood Alert covering most parts of the Central Division and Ovalau Island. Rainfall activity may intensify as the cyclone approaches Fiji, prompting a Heavy Rainfall Warning for the entire Fiji Group.
As the highly anticipated Pacific Games draw near, teams from across Oceania are making their final preparations for the sporting event scheduled to take place in Honiara from November 19 to December 2. Originally slated for July 16–29, 2023, the Games were rescheduled in July 2021 due to delays in preparation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Solomon Islands.
The 2023 Pacific Games will feature 24 teams, including invited teams Australia and New Zealand, competing in 346 events across 24 sports. The theme for the 17th Pacific Games is ‘Challenge, Celebrate, Unite.’ The Opening Ceremony is set for November 19, with competition beginning on November 17 in four sports. Spanning 11 venues in the host city of Honiara, this edition marks the first time the Solomon Islands are hosting the Pacific Games, formerly known as the South Pacific Games.