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Cyclone tears roofs off houses in Solomon Islands

Freshly formed Cyclone Freda whipped roofs off houses and flattened trees in the Solomon Islands as it gathered strength en route to New Caledonia, forecasters said on Saturday.

There was also flooding from rising rivers as winds of up to 130 kilometres an hour (80 mph) blew in, but there were no reports of deaths or injuries, Solomon Islands Meteorological Service officer Manoah Tepa said.

"Cyclone Freda is now a category two cyclone and it is continuing to intensify. It will become category three by midnight tonight having very destructive winds," said Sajay Prakesh of the Nadi Tropical Cyclone Centre in Fiji.

Although the cyclone was moving away, parts of the Solomon Islands were being hit by "very strong winds and heavy rain," said Prakesh.

On Friday, the New Zealand-based meteorological service Weatherwatch said the storm was expected to be over New Caledonia on New Year's Day.

Earlier this month Cyclone Evan strengthened to a category four cyclone and left a swathe of devastation in its wake, destroying homes, flooding rivers and stranding thousands of tourists in Fiji.

Before arriving in Fiji, it pummelled neighbouring Samoa, killing at least five.

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