SUVA, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Fiji's Meteorological Service warned of intense rain and "damaging gale force winds" to outer areas of the island nation on Thursday, as the first tropical cyclone this year formed in the South Pacific.
Tropical Cyclone Mona was moving in southeast and expected to cross outlying islands in Fiji.
"There's a risk of flash flooding in low-lying and flood-prone areas. Therefore, all communities living in the flood-prone and landslide areas are requested to remain alert and take precautions," said the Acting Director of Fiji Meteorological Services Viliame Vereivalu.
The South Pacific is prone to cyclones in the early months of the year and in February 2016, Fiji was hit by the full force of Cyclone Winston, which left 44 people dead and destroyed tens of thousands of homes.
Vereivalu confirmed Tropical Cyclone Mona has formed to the North of Rotuma, which is a Fijian dependency, consisting of Rotuma Island and nearby islets. The island group is home to a large and unique indigenous ethnic group which constitutes a recognizable minority within the population of Fiji, known as Rotumans.
The system may bring damaging gale force winds over Rotuma in the next 12 to 18 hours.
Damaging gale force winds is expected in the next 24 to 48 hours for the islands such as Vanua Levu, Taveuni and nearby smaller islands.