New Caledonia goes to highest alert ahead of Hola

As Cyclone Hola bears down on New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands the government has issued the maximum alert for residents.

It has declared a level two alert to apply in Ouvea at 4pm (New Zealand time) and in Mare at 7pm.

The cyclone weakened earlier today to a category three as it moved away from Vanuatu.

And while it is more than 300 kilometres from Vanuatu, it is still bringing gale force winds, thunderstorms and a threat of flooding.

Forecasters said the cyclone is likely to weaken further later today.

Meanwhile, people in the Loyalty Island group have been preparing for the arrival of Hola.

A fishing tour operator on Lifou in the Loyalty Island group, Alex Rigourd, said he had been cleaning up loose items around his home, buying food and water and stocking up on candles.

He said it was quite common for water and power to be out for three or four days when the islands are hit by bad weather.

According to him, local people were securing their boats.

"They just make sure that, the owners make sure that they are really safe, in the water. And the others that can take out of the water, the boat out of the water, they just do it, they take out their boat and tie them really tight on the road."

Mr Rigourd said some houses in the Loyalty Islands could be easily damaged as their corrugated iron roofs are held on with rocks

He explained that during a storm, people tended to go to the strongest houses of extended family members.

The seas have begun to get rough and Mr Rigourd said he was expecting Cyclone Hola may arrive on Friday or Saturday.

New Caledonia's two domestic airlines have cancelled all flights today in anticipation of cyclone Hola passing the territory, but international flights to New Caledonia are running on schedule for the time being.

Parts of Vanuatu are expected to continue to experience heavy wind and rain throughout today.