Stranded in paradise: getting set for a cyclone

Brian Brownstein, inset, stranded at the Blue Lagoon Beach Resort  on Nacula island.
Brian Brownstein, inset, stranded at the Blue Lagoon Beach Resort on Nacula island. Photo: Brian Brownstein

smh.com.au's Deputy News Editor Brian Brownstein reports from the island of Nacula.

On the island of Nacula, about four hours by catamaran from the main island of Viti Levu, staff at the Blue Lagoon Beach Resort were preparing for a cyclone as early as yesterday.

Windows on the beachfront villas have been boarded up, while all guests have been briefed on what to do if winds of up to 110km/h-plus hit the hotel.

When staff told residents last night they would have to follow the sound of whistles in case of poor visibility and gather in the shared dormitory bathrooms, a noticeable tension came over the room.

Boarding up ... the chalets at the Blue Lagoon Beach Resort.
Boarding up ... the chalets at the Blue Lagoon Beach Resort. 

Peter Capozzoli, 38, of Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles, said today he was "a little scared".

"We've had a night or two of very long wind and rain. And that was only a tropical depression, which we now find could become a tropical cyclone.

"There is the fear of the unknown," he added. "Any forecast is unpredictable."

The Blue Lagoon Beach Resort is getting prepared for the cyclone.
The Blue Lagoon Beach Resort is getting prepared for the cyclone. 

Mr Capozzoli, the mission manager for a space exploration technology corporation, was due to fly out of Fiji yesterday, but will now not be leaving until Thursday evening at the least.

"Missing responsibilities at work is a concern," said Mr Capozzoli, who is managing a multimillion-dollar launch to the International Space Station, scheduled to take off at the end of April.

Tim Tuiqali, 30, Blue Lagoon's assistant manager, said he had not seen weather like this since he was a child.

Nacula Island, in the Yasawa range of islands, has been pelted by relentless rain and strong winds since Wednesday evening. There have been very few let-ups in the weather, with the slightly clearer sky today an exception.

Mr Tuiqali, although cautious, said he did not expect Nacula to bear the brunt of the cyclone.

"In the next six hours another system is expected to come through with gale force winds, but I think the worst has passed."

The slightly improved conditions have allowed some people to return to the mainland today, with boat company Awesome Adventures putting on a special service this morning.

However, with ocean conditions still very choppy, the journey is expected to take up to seven hours.

"They'll be throwing up on board," Blue Lagoon general manager Justin King said.

There are also fears that, with the high volume of people getting off the Fijian Islands and heading to the airport, there could be havoc.

At the Blue Lagoon Beach Resort, 32 of 55 guests checked out after being stranded since Thursday, with no boats coming to or from the island.

Stephanie Cronin, 29, today, said: "I'm expecting chaotic scenes at the airport. But I'm just looking forward to some dry clothes and a dry bed.

"I am scared of what I'm going to see [on the mainland]. My friend Facebooked and said there is a state of emergency and they are running out of food and drinking water."

Ms Cronin, who is flying to Brisbane, said it felt "bitter-sweet to be leaving".

"It was fantastic here at first. It was paradise. Now I'm just looking forward to going home.

Ms Cronin was due to arrive in Brisbane yesterday.

"I got a bit upset yesterday," she said. "I haven't seen my brother for a year-and-a-half and I was supposed to be celebrating my birthday."

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