Cyclone Evan on course to hit NZ

Last updated 06:55 20/12/2012

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As Fiji and Samoa assess the damage caused by Cyclone Evan, the storm remains on course to hit New Zealand this weekend, making a wet and windy Christmas possible for the north and east of the North Island.

Since Evan left Fiji it has slowly travelled south towards New Zealand, but forecasters were yesterday uncertain exactly where it would hit the country.

"There is a split between the computer models. It is either heading quite close to Northland or quite close to East Cape," MetService forecaster Allister Gorman said.

MetService said there could be flooding and winds strong enough to knock over trees and powerlines.

But no-one should cancel their holiday plans yet.

"We don't want to frighten people away," Mr Gorman said.

"Gisborne and Northland are big holiday spots, and while we are uncertain, we don't want to put a kibosh on one. People need to check the forecast closer to the weekend."

While the storm was travelling over open ocean it was very difficult to monitor the atmospheric conditions it encountered as it tracked south, he said.

Typically, when cyclones closed in on New Zealand they changed from being a tropical cyclone to being a mid-latitude low, with the strength of the winds dropping and the rain easing, but with the system covering a larger area.

"When it is in the tropics it has to pass very close to those islands to do damage," Mr Gorman said.

"When it comes to New Zealand you can still be hundreds of kilometres from the centre and you can still get damaging winds."

Meanwhile, life in cyclone-ravaged Samoa and Fiji was starting to get back to normal yesterday, with many tourists continuing their holidays.

In Fiji, a state of natural disaster has been declared in the country's northern and western divisions. National Disaster Management Office director Manasa Tagicakibau said the order would allow authorities to speed up rehabilitation work.

Fiji's Tourism Secretary, Elizabeth Powell, said the military had been dispatched to help hotels as well as residents.

Most, if not all, main roads had been cleared so emergency services were moving quite freely between damaged areas, she said.

It was too early to tell whether there would be any health issues, but Ms Powell said it should not be a big problem.

"In March we had the flooding and the accumulation of stagnant water was a challenge, but in this situation there was no associated flooding in the main areas."

The recovery has also begun for Samoa's tourism industry.

The famous Aggie Grey's Hotel on Apia's waterfront had been closed since it was flooded by the cyclone, which struck Samoa last Thursday. Staff had been removing silt from the ground floor and hoped to open again soon.

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"The cleanup is expected to be completed by the 23rd and the hotel will open on the 24th," said Aggie Grey's Resort general manager Theresa Sing. All guests from the hotel were moved to Aggie Grey's beach resort 27km from Apia.

Electricity had been restored to Apia and major supermarkets were beginning to open.

Tourists were continuing to fly to Samoa and only four reservations had been cancelled, said Laura Wadsworth, managing director at Sunseeker Travel.

- The Dominion Post

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