Cyclone Evan strikes Fiji

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Trees amongst the strong wind in Lautoka, Fiji. Photo / Ron Nair
Trees amongst the strong wind in Lautoka, Fiji. Photo / Ron Nair

Thousands of Fijians and holidaymakers in the Pacific Island nation are preparing for the worst of Tropical Cyclone Evan to batter the country.

Power has been cut sporadically to large portions of Fiji for much of the day as Evan made landfall packing winds of more than 155km/h, and water supplies are disrupted.

Families in Lautoka, which has bore the brunt of the cyclone, have reportedly lost all their belongings after winds either blew away their homes or roofs.

A resident in the area said that of the 18 homes in his area, only five houses remained standing, Fiji Village reported.

Thousands of Fijians and up to 400 New Zealanders were waiting out the storm in evacuation centres.

This morning Cyclone Evan, which was upgraded to a category 4 cyclone, reached the northern island of Vanua Levu as its winds buffeted populated areas.

It then slid along Fiji's northwest corner, bringing with it gusts in excess of 155km/h.

It was expected to blast Nadi before moving away from the Pacific Island tomorrow morning, WeatherWatch forecaster Philip Duncan said.

The cyclone, which last week pounded Samoa, killing at least four people, was bringing down trees and ripping roofs off buildings in Fiji.

Two ships have also run aground in Suva Harbour.

A curfew for all public transport prevents any vehicles from operating overnight tonight.

It is feared Evan could be as devastating as Cyclone Kina, which killed 23 people and left thousands homeless in 1993.

Prime Minister John Key said the Government was bracing itself to hear what destruction would be caused.

About 2700 tourists in Fiji's western outer islands, the Yasawas and Mamanucas, had moved to the main island of Viti Levu or returned home early.

Pacific Harbour resident Michael Thoms, who lives 40 minutes from Suva on the edge of where Evan is set to hit hardest, said today he'd watched a tree in his backyard "take off''.

Joanna Underwood of Nadi said they still had power but were forced to stay indoors.

"It's really gusting, but this is only the beginning of it _ the rain has not really started here in Nadi, but once it comes we will then have lots of it,'' she said earlier this afternoon.

Meanwhile, searchers in Samoa have located a fishing boat - one of four missing since Evan hit the region - but there has been no sign of the 10 fishermen who were aboard.

A New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion and a French Navy aircraft had already been searching for up to eight fishermen missing in three boats since Tropical Cyclone Evan struck Samoa on Friday.

A Maritime New Zealand spokesman said today that another boat had been confirmed as missing, taking the total number of missing men to 10.

Two men had so far been found alive.

Late this evening an upturned boat, believed to be one of the missing boats, was located and was being towed to Apia.

- APNZ

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