Fijians are being urged to prepare their families now as Tropical Depression 03F intensified into a Category 1 Tropical Cyclone Sarai overnight and there is now a strong wind warning and heavy rain warning in place for the Fiji islands.
The Nadi Weather Office said Friday Cyclone Sarai is expected to move south and the center should be about 260 km west of Yasawa-i-Rara or about 180 km West NorthWest of Nadi, the third largest city of Fiji.
Tropical Cyclone Sarai continues to move at 35km/hour and was located about 200km northwest of Viwa or about 300km northwest of Nadi on Friday.
On the projected path, the cyclone is expected to move south and the center should be about 110 km west of Viwa or about 170 km west-northwest of Nadi.
Close to its center, the cyclone is expected to have average winds of up to 65km/hr with momentary gusts to 90km/hr.
In the meantime, the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) in Fiji has confirmed that there will be unplanned disruption to travel in the country as Fiji Airways and Fiji Link have cancelled some flights.
Goundar Shipping Services, Interlink Shipping Line Limited and Patterson Brothers Shipping Company Limited have cancelled all their trips until further notice. South Sea Cruises has also cancelled all day cruises within the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands.
The Mamanuca islands are a volcanic archipelago lying to the west of Nadi and to the south of the Yasawa islands, a popular tourist destination that consists of about 20 islands, but about seven of these are covered by the Pacific Ocean at high tide.
All four Divisional Emergency Operation Centers have been activated and NDMO director Vasiti Soko said all evacuation centers are also on standby.
Soko said they are sharing information with stakeholders like the Fiji police, the army and the Navy who are on standby.
Two tropical cyclones are expected to affect the South Pacific island nation of Fiji this cyclone season.
The Fiji Meteorological Service released its forecast for the cyclone season between November 2019 and April 2020, saying that of the two tropical cyclones anticipated, one may reach category 3 or stronger intensity while up to eight tropical cyclones are expected to occur in an area covering the Solomon Islands to French Polynesia.
The peak period for cyclone is usually from January to March, but historical records show that tropical cyclones have occasionally formed in the region outside the official cyclone season, including May, June, July, September and October.
Therefore, it is critically important that all communities are prepared and remain vigilant at all times.
When tropical cyclones move over or pass close to the Fiji islands, the risks that are likely during such events are damaging winds, heavy rain which leads to flooding and landslides and storm surge that can result in sea flooding of low-lying coastal areas.
In 2016, Fiji was hit by tropical cyclone Winston, which killed 44 people and caused extensive damages to the island state.
Fijians are advised to take serious heed of tropical cyclone alerts, warnings and advisories whenever issued to reduce the risk on life, livelihoods and property.
A Kazakhstan plane with 98 people aboard has crashed shortly after takeoff early Friday, killing at least 15 people, officials in Almaty said. At least 66 others survived with injuries, 50 of them hospitalized.
The Bek Air aircraft hit a concrete fence and a two-story building after takeoff from Almaty International Airport. It lost attitude at 7:22 a.m. (0122 GMT), the airport said.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the airport said there was no fire and a rescue operation got underway immediately following the crash.
Around 1,000 people were working at the snow-covered site of the crash. The weather in Almaty was clear, with mild sub-zero temperature that is common at this time of the year.
Footage showed the front of the broken-up fuselage rammed a house and the rear of the plane lying in the field next to the airport.
The plane was flying to Nur-Sultan, the country's capital formerly known as Astana.
The aircraft was identified as a Fokker-100, a medium-sized, twin-turbofan jet airliner. The company manufacturing the aircraft went bankrupt in 1996 and the production of the Fokker-100 stopped the following year.
All Bek Air and Fokker-100 flights in Kazakhstan have been suspended pending the investigation of the crash, the country's authorities said.
Iraq's president refused on Thursday to designate a prime minister candidate nominated by the Iran-backed parliamentary bloc and offered to resign, plunging the country into further political uncertainty amid nearly three months of unprecedented mass protests.
President Barham Salih said in a statement issued by his office that he would not name the governor of the southern Basra province, Asaad al-Eidani, as the country's next prime minister "to avoid more bloodshed and in order to safeguard civil peace."
Al-Eidani's name was proposed on Wednesday by the Fatah bloc, which includes leaders associated with the Iran-supported paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces. His nomination was promptly rejected by Iraqi protesters who poured into the streets Wednesday demanding an independent candidate.
Demonstrators first took to the streets on Oct. 1 to call for the overthrow of Iraq's entire political class over corruption and mismanagement. The mass uprisings prompted the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi late last month. More than 450 people have been killed since October, the vast majority of them protesters killed by security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition.
Concentrated in Baghdad and the mostly Shiite-inhabited south, the protests have since evolved into an uprising against Iran's political and military influence in the country.
Salih said he was prepared to submit his resignation to Parliament, as his refusal to designate al-Eidani could be construed as a violation of the constitution. He stopped short of actually stepping down, however, saying in a statement addressed to the Parliament speaker that he would leave it up to lawmakers to decide "as they see fit." Shortly after issuing the statement, the president left Baghdad for his hometown in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.
Under the constitution, parliament has seven days to accept or reject a president's resignation before it automatically goes into effect. It was unclear how lawmakers would react, as Salih did not officially resign.
Signaling a hardline stance, the Fatah bloc slammed Salih's decision to not name al-Eidani and called for his impeachment. "We call on parliament to take legal measures against the president for shirking his constitutional oath and breaching the constitution," it said in a statement.
In Baghdad's Tahrir Square, which has emerged as a focal point of their demonstrations, protesters gathered to celebrate the president's decision.
"This is a victory for the demonstrators and a victory for the blood of the martyrs," said activist Hassanein Gharib. "Because of street pressure, the candidate of the (political) parties was rejected, and we will not accept and we will not return to our homes if the party candidate is nominated."
According to Iraq's constitution, the largest bloc in parliament is required to nominate the new prime minister, who then has to be designated by the president. A deadline to name a new prime minister has been missed twice over disagreements on which is the largest bloc in the parliament following last year's elections.
There are two main blocs in the Iraqi Parliament: Sairoon, led by populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr; and Fatah, headed by Hadi al-Amiri. But the numbers in the blocs have continued to change since last year's elections, with an unknown number of lawmakers leaving some blocs and joining others.
On Saturday, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court provided guidance in a statement, but stopped short of naming the largest bloc. It said the decision should be based on parliament's first session after taking office last year. But the court also said it would accept the merger of two or more lists to become the largest bloc. The same day, President Salih sent the court's response to parliament, asking the legislature to say which is the largest bloc.
A Facebook page close to al-Sadr commented on the president's position saying: "Thank you, Mr. President, for rejecting the candidates that the people reject, a position that history, and the (Iraqi) people and the (Shiite religious) authority will record."
A South Korean court on Friday rejected a request to arrest a key ally of President Moon Jae-in who is being investigated over allegations of corruption and power abuse, saying he was unlikely to flee or destroy evidence.
But in a rare comment on a suspect who has yet to be convicted, the Seoul Eastern District Court stated that the case of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk involved criminal acts of bad nature.
Prosecutors have claimed that Cho, while serving as Moon's senior secretary for civil affairs in 2017, abused his power by blocking a government inspection into corruption allegations surrounding former Financial Services Commission Director-General Yoo Jae-soo, another official close to Moon's ruling party.
Yoo, who later became vice mayor of the city of Busan, was arrested in November and indicted earlier this month over suspicion that he received around 49.5 million won ($42,600) in bribes from businesspeople during his time at the financial regulator.
Cho, once considered a future presidential contender for the ruling liberals, is being separately investigated over allegations of financial crimes and academic fraud surrounding his family that led to the arrests of his wife and other relatives and sparked huge protests that dented the popularity of Moon's government.
"The nature of the criminal acts in this case is not good, but considering the suspect's testimony and attitude during the hearing, the fact that his spouse has been arrested and is on trial on a different case, the fact that it's difficult to determine that the gravity of the offense would warrant an arrest, and that the suspect has a fixed residence, it cannot be said there's a reason for an arrest based on concerns of fleeing," the court said in statement.
Prosecutors didn't immediately say whether they would make further requests for Cho's arrest.
Cho served as Moon's justice minister for a month before resigning in October as the scandal grew, but he has firmly denied any legal wrongdoing.
"I have been enduring an endless investigation by the prosecution targeting my family. It has been a harsh time," Cho told reporters on Thursday as he arrived at the court for a hearing on the prosecution's warrant request.
He said he didn't agree with the content of the prosecution's warrant request, which accused Cho of abusing his power as a presidential official.
A magnitude 5 earthquake struck southern Iran early Friday near the Islamic Republic's only nuclear power plant. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
The quake hit Iran's Bushehr province at 5:23 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It put the magnitude at 5.1 and the depth of the earthquake at 38 kilometers (24 miles).
Iranian state media did not immediately report on the quake. However, the Bushehr nuclear power plant was designed to withstand much stronger earthquakes.
A magnitude 5 earthquake can cause considerable damage.
Iran sits on major fault lines and is prone to near-daily earthquakes. In 2003, a 6.6-magnitude quake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people. Bam is near the Bushehr nuclear plant, which wasn't damaged at that time.