Volunteer helps families in cyclone misery

By Imran Ali

A former Northlander working as a volunteer in cyclone-ravaged Samoa helped evacuate three families and provided basic necessities for them.

Nina Hall, who works for the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme organised by the Baha'i faith, is returning to New Zealand for an early Christmas as she'll be without power for up to a month.

Cyclone Evan hit Samoa late last week, leaving at least four people dead, up to 3000 homeless, and flattened buildings in the capital Apia.

A search for 10 fishermen, missing off the country during the cyclone, has been called off.

Ms Hall, a former Whangarei Girls' High School student, said the reality of the situation dawned upon her on Friday when she saw flash floods in Lelata, Apia.

"I was inside my flat on Thursday which is very secure and couldn't really see much, except strong winds and heavy rain, until I went out and about on Friday.

"The flash flood brought a huge amount of debris, mud, large rocks and trees.

It was a total devastation ... I've never seen anything like this before," she said.

A river that ran through Lelata, she said, broke its bank that caused widespread flooding and forced some families to move elsewhere. "I was lucky to have a vehicle and a safe place to stay in so I helped some friends relocate to a house of worship up a hill.

"These are three large families with a lot of children - 30 people all up who lost everything in the flood. I am also helping them get a few necessities."

She spent yesterday driving around the island to see the extent of damage.

Ms Hall moved to Hamilton from Whangarei and before going to Samoa, spent a couple of years in Tonga working for the Baha'i faith.

Auckland flights to Apia are back on schedule for Air New Zealand, with an extra service operating on Sunday.

Extra flights will fly into Samoa's capital, and the national carrier also relaxed baggage allowances. The altered rules allow adult and child passengers booked to travel to Apia up to Sunday, December 30 to take one extra piece of luggage with them.

The cyclone moved to Fiji where hundreds were forced to take shelter, although no lives were reportedly lost.

- Northern Advocate

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