The small Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu is urging people to take shelter as it braces for Cyclone Pam, which is expected to graze the islands with winds of 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour.
Authorities fear the category-5 cyclone will destroy homes and cause severe flooding. The full impact is expected to be felt in the capital Port Vila late Friday.
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The cyclone has already caused damage to other Pacific islands including Kiribati and the Solomon Islands.
Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards Department Acting Director David Gibson says Pam is packing maximum sustained winds of 230 kph at its center, which is expected to pass just east of the capital.
Located about a quarter of the way from Australia to Hawaii, Vanuatu has a population of 267,000 spread over 65 islands.