14 Dec 2012

Samoa police confirm children missing, presumed drowned

11:25 am on 14 December 2012

The police in Samoa have confirmed that some children are missing presumed drowned in Tropical Cyclone Evan, but exactly how many has not yet been confirmed.

New Zealand's High Commissioner to Samoa, Nick Hurley, says he has just spoken to the police who say the children went missing near the Vaisigano river, which runs through the capial, Apia.

Mr Hurley says the police have told him the children are Samoan citizens.

He says Samoa now in the eye of the storm, waiting for it to launch a further attack on the islands.

The Samoa Met Office says tropical cyclone Evan is expected to be upgraded to a category four storm in the next 12 to 24 hours and they have not ruled out an upgrade to category five.

The lead forecaster at the Samoa Metservice, Mulipola Ausetalia Titimaea, says they have been tracking the cyclone since it turned away from neighbouring American Samoa.

"Well if it continues on its current track we are expecting, but there is not particular time, but it's probably this evening."

Mulipola says it has also upgraded its warnings to hurricane force winds in Upolu.

A reporter for Radio Polynesia, Amesene Tanielu, says many families in the Apia area have lost their homes.

She says the main river which runs through Apia overflowed taking out homes on the banks of the river.

It was more like a lake and it was flowing very strongly that the strength of it some families had their properties taken out and the police were using ropes to pull and hold people. So far no confirmation of any casualities there were two missing people yesterday but I understand that they have found them.

Amesene Tanielu says the families who were evacuated yesterday either spent the night at the local police station or at the main hospital.

She says school buildings were opened yesterday are now being used as temporary shelters in the capital.

Amesene Tanielu says power is still erratic at the moment around the capital.

The National Weather Service in Pago Pago has cancelled the cyclone warning for American Samoa as Evan moves away from the territory.

Early this morning, the storm was 136 kilometres west of Pago Pago and moving away from the territory, but continues to usher severe and hazardous weather conditions.

A Gale Warning is now in effect for American Samoa; a high surf warning remains in effect as well for all coastal waters; and a flash flood watch is in effect.

A forecaster is warning that Tropical Cyclone Evan may worsen and reach hurricane strength as it passes near the northern islands of Tonga on Saturday morning.

A tropical cyclone alert is now in force for Niuatoputapu and Niuafo'ou.

The Director of the Fiji Meterological Service Alipate Waqaicelua says the strength of the winds predicted to hit northern Tonga depends on the track of the system as it turns around and heads west but speeds of up to 130 kilometers per hour are possible.

We anticipate a recurvature towards the west within the next twenty four hours and when that does happen it's going to be sailing to or very close to the northern islands of Tonga on its way to Fiji where its expected to be impacting the whole of Fiji.

He says Fiji will be issued a weather warning 48 hours prior to being hit by the system.