13 Dec 2012

Cyclone Evan causes disaster in Samoa

3:33 pm on 13 December 2012

Samoa has issued a disaster declaration after assessing initial damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Evan.

The storm with its sustained winds of 90 kilometres an hour, and gusts to 130 kilometres per hour has brought heavy rain and storm surges of up to three metres.

Cyclone Evan is expected to move back west and affect Tonga and Fiji.

Jenny Meyer reports.

The Samoa Disaster Management Office says at this stage it can cope with the clean-up out of existing funds and does not need international assistance.

A spokesperson, Filamena Nelson says the main problems are fallen trees with many obstructing roads and bringing power lines down cutting electricity.

She says some homes have been damaged by the trees but there are no reports of deaths or injuries.

"Our Deputy Prime Minister just signed a Declaration of Disaster which is made under our Disaster and Emergency Management Act 2007 and this is effective for forty eight hours. The extension of that will very much depend on the situation."

Filamena Nelson says the whole of Samoa has been affected by high winds and surface flooding.

The terminal at Faleolo airport has suffered some damage but the runway is intact.

Air New Zealand says its Auckland-Apia flight this morning was cancelled and weather permitting, a special charter flight is planned for Friday to accommodate disrupted passengers.

Our correspondent in American Samoa, Monica Miller says the streets of Pago Pago are quiet and people are anxious as they wait to see if the cyclone will hit the Territory as predicted.

The town is emptying out as people head home. The American Samoa Government has closed down. A lot of companies are also closed, the banks are closed, the Post Office is closed. Starkist Samoa has now also, this is the biggest employer with two thousand emplyees has just now announced that they have closed for today and tomorrow.

Fiji's Meteorological Service says Cyclone Evan may well become more intense as it turns towards Tonga and Fiji.

The Director of the Met Service Alipate Waqaicelua says Tonga's northern islands, Niuatoputapu and Niuafo'ou, are being warned of damaging gale force winds within the next two days.

He says Fiji may be directly affected on Sunday.

The land mass of Samoa has interfered with the intensity and its structure so it might appear it had weakened but we expect this cyclone to retain a category two or even intensify further as it turns toward the west and heads towards Tonga and Fiji.

Alipate Waqaicelua says high and damaging sea swells are a feature of the cyclone and marine warnings are in place.

Spokesman from the Tonga Disaster Office says an official is meeting a committee up north to help with preparations of the cyclone's approach, where up to a thousand people could be affected.