Cylone Evan hits Samoa

Last updated 15:38 13/12/2012
Cyclone Evan in Samoa
Janina Moaga
Cyclone Evan hits the capital of Samoa, Apia.
cyclone evan
Samoa Meteorological Service
WILD WEATHER: The cyclone heads for Samoa.

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Air New Zealand has cancelled its flights in and out of Samoa as Cyclone Evan begins to pound the South Pacific nation.

The eye of the cyclone was expected to pass over Samoa's capital of Apia shortly.

A walkway at the international terminal at Faleolo Airport has collapsed due to the cyclone. An official says the walkway linking the terminals came down this morning.

No one was hurt and no aircraft have been damaged.

Tourists staying in beach fales around the country have been told to move inland and schools and government offices have closed.

The New Zealand High Commissioner Nick Hurley said earlier that Evan was "a bit like a good Wellington storm" this morning.

"I can look out the office and see children walking along the sea wall watching the water," he said.

Air New Zealand cancelled this morning's Airbus A320 flight from Auckland to Faleolo. The return flight has also been cancelled.

An Air New Zealand official said 136 passengers had checked in before the flight was canned and the airline hoped to them to Samoa tomorrow on a replacement charter flight.

Evan is now a category two storm on a five point scale, producing sustained winds of 48 to 63 knots (89 kph to 117 kph) with gusts up to 89 knots (164 kph). A swell of up to four metres are expected.

At Aleipata on Samoa's south-eastern coast beach falesat the popular Taufau Beach Resort have been evacuated.

The area was badly hit during the 2009 South Pacific tsunami which killed 189 people across the region.

Thirteen members of the Taufua family were killed in the tsunami and the resort was destroyed.

It was rebuilt with the assistance of New Zealand aid on the same spot. This is the first cyclone since the rebuild.

Taufua's manager Sili Apelu said this morning that the area was being buffeted by strong winds and drizzle ahead of Evan's arrival.

The seas were rough but not immediately threatening to the resort, but he said they had decided to move guests who are staying in beach fale to another part of the resort.

"We told them at breakfast that it was important we move them up the hill," he said.

He added that Samoa radio was reporting severe weather in Apia.

Even is the first cyclone of the South Pacific 2012-2013 season and is likely to be the first big test for a massive seawall built around Apia's Harbour following two ruinous cyclones in the 1990s.  

The cyclone is expected to pass over Upolu before doing a 180 degree turn and coming back toward American Samoa.

It could intensify over the weekend hitting the vulnerable Tongan islands of Niuafo'ou and Niuatoputapu, both of which were devastated by the 2009 tsunami which killed 189 people across the region.

The Fiji Meteorological Service predicts Evan might hit the Fiji island of Taveuni and then the main Fijian islands, including the capital Suva.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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