Cyclone Evan causes Rewa River to flood

MICHAEL FIELD, PAUL EASTON AND MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 16:09 18/12/2012
Fiji Ministry of Information

Raw vision of Cyclone Evan as it makes its way towards Suva.

Cyclone Evan fiji
Fiji Ministry of Information Zoom
Damage from Cyclone Evan at a resort in western Fiji.

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Fiji's military has issued an urgent appeal after the Rewa River burst its banks in the wake of Cyclone Evan.

Colonel Laisenia Tuitubou has called for all people living in the Rewa delta to move to high ground before it gets dark.

The river is heavily flooded from heavy rains in the highlands.

The delta, east of Suva, includes the large town of Nausori and a small international airport.

Cyclone Evan has been downgraded to a category three storm and flights to Fiji, as well as Samoa where Evan killed at lest four people last week, are back on track.

Air New Zealand flights from Auckland to Nadi are as scheduled, with two flights expected to land there late this afternoon. However, today's flights from Nadi to Auckland on Air Pacific and Qantas have both been cancelled.

In Samoa, flights bound for Apia from Auckland are back on schedule for Air New Zealand, with an extra service operating on Sunday for extra capacity.

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.

Because the flights leaving from Auckland will have cargo space filled with food and welfare items, passengers travelling this week would not be able to fly with their extra baggage - though it could follow on a different flight free of charge.

HORROR NIGHT AS STORM HIT

One New Zealander has described the harrowing experience of sheltering in Nadi as the cyclone battered the country overnight.

"Our room was pretty much awash with all the water that was coming in, there were leaks in the ceiling as well as water coming in the door, so we were dealing with that as well as the wind," Fairfax journalist Marc Hinton said.

"But it appears as though the worst has past, there are still fairly strong winds here - but nowhere near the intensity that it was through the night.

"Our ceiling is starting to cave in so there is obviously a lot of water that got into the buildings, which was to be expected with the strength of the winds and bits of roofs being torn off."

Hinton's family had not left their room since yesterday. They only had lights working overnight.

"We literally haven't seen anyone because everyone was hunkered down, the winds were so strong last night you couldn't even open your doors, it was over 200kmh."

FLOODING WARNINGS

Thousands of people huddled in evacuation centres overnight as winds sent houses and trees flying through the air. Sky News reported a hospital lost its roof and patients had to be evacuated.

The Fiji Meteorology Office has cancelled hurricane alerts, but in a special weather bulletin this morning it said there was a flooding alert after heavy rain in the highlands.

The warning covered rivers including the Wainimala, Wainibuka, Waidina, Rewa, and the low lying areas of Nausori and Rewa Delta.

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Thousands of people live in the area surrounding the rivers.

The Fiji Ministry of Information said reports pointed to extensive damage to roads, bridges, power lines, houses and community halls. There were no reports of deaths and injuries.

TAKING SHELTER

Fiji's second largest city, Lautoka, was described last night as a war zone. An unknown number of homes were destroyed and many had lost their roofs. Running water was also out in Nadi.

This morning, a number of  main highways through Fiji were in lock down and the entire Western Division from Korolevu to Rakiraki was without power.

Rakiraki was almost completely under water for much of the night.

NZ TO STEP UP AID

New Zealand has contributed close to $1 million to help Samoa and Fiji in the aftermath of Evan and further funding is expected.

Fiji made a formal request for assistance overnight and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand was happy to help.

It has offered an initial $50,000 to respond to specific requests from Fiji. Tarpaulins, water containers, generators and chainsaw packs were also on the way to Fiji on commercial flights.

A further contribution of $170,000 has been made to the Fiji Red Cross.

"We are also looking at further funding for New Zealand-based non-government organisations that have supplies pre-positioned in Fiji," McCully said. 

New Zealand has also offered Samoa a total of $600,000 in assistance, bringing the total assistance package for both countries to $870,000.

Five additional New Zealand Red Cross workers would travel to Samoa to support local efforts. 

SOMOA'S SEARCH FOR MISSING 

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

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

Maritime New Zealand said three days of searching involving a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion and a French Marine Nationale Guardian aircraft covered around 5,000 square kilometres but failed to find any sign of the men.

The upturned boat was believed to be one of the missing boats, but had yet to be formally identified. 

- Fairfax Media

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