Cyclone Evan: Fiji counts cost, but not lives

Twelve-hour battering leaves bridges submerged, power lines down and roads blocked.

Cyclone Evan destroyed many homes in Nadi while in Lautoka a resident stocks up on newly created firewood. Photo / Fiji Ministry of Information
Cyclone Evan destroyed many homes in Nadi while in Lautoka a resident stocks up on newly created firewood. Photo / Fiji Ministry of Information

Fijians yesterday began cleaning up after the effects of Cyclone Evan, which left a swathe of destruction after battering the Pacific nation for more than 12 hours, destroying homes, flooding rivers and stranding thousands of tourists.

Despite the damage, officials said there were no reported fatalities as the storm headed out to sea early yesterday and was downgraded a notch to category three.

Western parts of the main island Viti Levu bore the brunt of the cyclone's fury overnight, with the Fiji Times describing the township of Lautoka as a "war zone".

The information ministry said bridges were submerged by swollen rivers, high winds toppled power lines and roads were closed by landslides and debris.

Almost 8500 locals sheltered from the cyclone in evacuation centres, while thousands of international tourists, many relocated from outlying islands for their own safety, rode out the storm in Viti Levu's resorts.

However, fears that Cyclone Evan would rival the deadly force of Cyclone Kina, which killed 23 people when it swept through Fiji in 1993, proved unfounded, largely because of extensive planning.

Neighbouring Samoa had no advance notice when Evan pummelled it late last week and officials there said yesterday the official death toll had risen to five, with up to 10 people still missing.

The missing were aboard four fishing boats that failed to return to port last Friday and a New Zealand-led aerial search was called off yesterday. "We are confident that the area has been thoroughly covered in difficult circumstances," Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand spokesman Neville Blakemore said.

"This is obviously a tragic outcome for the families of the men involved and our thoughts are with them."

Samoa's Disaster Management Office (DMO) said almost 5000 people were still in evacuation centres and power remained off in much of the country.

DMO spokeswoman Filomena Nelson said the damage caused by the storm, estimated by the government to cost $130 million, was more extensive than when a tsunami hit the country in 2009, killing 143 people.

"While the cost in lives has been less, the destruction is greater than the tsunami because it's affected a far larger area," she said.

How you can help

Several charities have launched Tropical Cyclone Evan relief funds to assist affected communities in Samoa and Fiji.

*The New Zealand Red Cross is sending a team to Samoa to assist the Samoan Red Cross. You can donate to their Pacific Disaster Response Fund here (http://www.redcross.org.nz/donate).

*The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is on the ground in Samoa, working with the Samoan Disaster Management Office and providing food, water, blankets and clothing to those in need. To contribute to ADRA's Samoa Cyclone Evan Fund, phone ADRA on 0800 4 999 111 or donate online here (http://adra.org.nz/products-page/donate/samoa-cyclone-evan/).

*Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has launched an Appeal for Pacific Cyclone Relief, and is committing an initial $15,000 towards emergency relief in Samoa. Caritas Samoa is sheltering more than 1000 people in its own basement hall and in three other centres in partnership with the Red Cross. Click here (http://www.caritas.org.nz/newsroom/media-releases/caritas-mobilises-pacific-cyclone-relief) to see how to donate.

-AAP

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