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Twin cyclones menace S. Pacific

Weather experts warn a direct hit by Olaf would inflict massive damage.
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Cook Islands
American Samoa

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- A state of emergency has been declared in the Pacific island nations of Samoa and American Samoa as super-cyclone Olaf makes landfall, bringing sustained winds of 250 km/h (155 mph) and 15 meter (50 foot) waves.

The Australian-Pacific Center for Emergency and Disaster Information (APCEDI) reports Olaf is already affecting Savai'i, the western-most main island of Samoa.

"Olaf has slowed considerably in the last 12 hours, but it appears to be maintaining its overall southeastward movement," the center says on its Web site.

The cyclone would track north of Savai'i and Upolu -- Samoa's two main islands -- in the direction of Tutuila, the main islands of American Samoa, the center says.

"Olaf has been showing some weird movement patterns and may stall. If it stalls this could cause major flash flooding," APCEDI spokesman Kevin Vang told CNN.

He said it was uncertain when, or if, Olaf would hit populated areas but warned that a direct hit would cause massive destruction.

Schools, businesses and airports in Samoa and American Samoa have been closed and boarded up while low-lying areas have been evacuated.

A second cyclone, Nancy, is also affecting the region to the southeast of Olaf.

Nancy is already wreaking damage in the nearby Cook Islands -- uprooting trees, damaging roofs and flooding coastal areas -- and the center warns that the two cyclones present a "critically dangerous situation" for the three nations.

A further five Pacific countries have also been placed on cyclone watch.

The Cook Islands, which is yet to recover fully from the category 4 Cyclone Meena which struck on February 7, now faces the possibility of being hit by two cyclones over the next 48 hours.

The Cook Islands Meteorological Office said it hoped Nancy, now about 330 km (200 miles) north of the main southern atoll of Rarotonga, would weaken over the next 24 hours.

"At this stage Rarotonga and Aitutaki are in its way," the centre's Tekii Lazaro told Reuters.

The two Samoas have a combined population of around 230,000 people. The 15 islands of the Cook group have a total land area of 230 sq km (90 sq miles). From north to south, the islands are spread over 1,400 km (900 miles). The island's total area of jurisdiction covers 2,200,000 square km (850,000 sq miles) of ocean.

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