Event Report

Event Description

Tropical Storm in New Caledonia on Monday, 11 March, 2013 at 08:37 (08:37 AM) UTC.

A severe tropical cyclone is bearing down on the south Pacific island of New Caledonia, packing sustained winds of up to 208 kph (130 mph) and forcing the shutdown of some nickel mining operations on the French territory on Monday. A French government spokesman said the slow-moving cyclone named Sandra was gradually intensifying and represented a serious threat to Belep Island and the northern end of the main island, home to the world's largest nickel deposits. New Caledonia's top nickel producer, Societe le Nickel (SLN), owned by France's Eramet, shut down nickel extraction and processing at its Tiebaghi site at 4 p.m local time on Monday and expected it to remain closed on Tuesday, a company spokesman said. Activity at its Poum site was unaffected on Monday, he said. The French government, which has placed the region and Belep on orange alert, said it was likely to upgrade the warning to red, the highest level, later in the day. The cyclone was about 400 km (250 miles) northwest of New Caledonia and heading southeast. The southern half of the main island, including SLN's 55,000-tonnes-per-year Doniambo smelter in the capital, Noumea, is not likely to be hit by Sandra, the French government said. New Caledonia is sandwiched between Tahiti and Australia and home to a quarter of the world's known nickel reserves. The commodity has been the lifeblood of the island's economy for more than a century.

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