Power is out across all of Samoa and many phone lines have been cut as Cyclone Evan batters the island nation for a second day.
The storm has passed over Apia this morning with greater force, after killing at least three people - including two children - yesterday. It appears to have veered away from the capital.
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Winds close to the cyclone's centre are predicted to increase to 120 kmh to 145 kmh within the next 6-12 hours.
A special weather bulletin said Upolu could expect to see high gusts of wind up to 160 kmh and damaging storm surges of 3.6 metres to 4.3m.
The Samoa Disaster Management Office says some main roads are inaccessible due to fallen trees and power poles and lines.
Water was only available to critical services such as the hospital, it said.
Samoa's High Commissioner in New Zealand has been struggling to get updated information.
"We don't have any update (on whether the next phase of the cyclone has hit). We've been trying to call the Disaster Management Office but have had no luck," a spokesman said.
He could confirm that at least three people were dead - two children and one adult. But did not have detail on ages or nationalities.
Samoan newspaper editor Tevita Terrance said wind gusts of up to 112 kmh were being experienced.
"There are several missing people at the moment. The damage is pretty extensive," he told RNZ.
Not everyone got sufficient warning about the cyclone yesterday, he said.
"Some of the beaches have been washed away, one of the main beaches has cracked and there is no access," he said.
"There's a lot of debris and there's cars are flowing down the river. Last night... people had to be rescued from their homes by the river."
Jenny Huch, who is on the island of Savaii, wrote on Facebook this morning that there were still strong winds and heavy rains.
"[It's] so dark with the whole island being covered in grey clouds. We really have no idea on what's going to happen [because] radio connections are cut and TV is out too," she said.
"Here in Savaii our houses are still standing but plantations are most likely ruined."
A LONG NIGHT
A Christchurch couple caught up in the cyclone have spent a sleepless night as winds and rain battered their house.
Fred Filipe, who travels to Apia for work, said it had been a long night for him and his wife Yvonne Filipe.
Their house in Vaivase, about five minutes from Apia town, had made it through the night undamaged, although there were a few leaks.
Being uphill, they had escaped major flooding, but they did not have power or water.
All the trees in the plantation surrounding their house had been uprooted and the strength of the wind was "frightening", Yvonne Filipe said.
Samoan photographer Jordan Kwan said this morning they had also endured a terror filled night.
"We just went for a quick drive downtown - it's absolutely flooded! Along the way we passed many homes with roofs ripped off and fallen trees everywhere. Our car had to navigate around debris that heavily littered the main road.
''We also witnessed many families who took advantage of the lull in the weather to pack and head to neighbouring homes for shelter after taking on heavy damages to their homes last night."
New Zealand High Commissioner to Samoa, Nick Hurley, told RNZ the wind and rain was starting to pick up again in Apia.
"We had a period of about four or five hours where there was intermittent rain and gusty wind, which was a bit of a relief after the previous day.
"We're expecting that cyclone to head back this way, about now it will stop roughly where it is now and then start heading southwest which will bring it back straight over Apia and the south of Samoa."
He said he has not seen the damage yet because most of it happened in darkness after 8pm.
Most people are still without power, said Hurley.
"One of the first things to come down was the powerlines. One of the problems when we were driving home from the High Commission office is that one of the powerlines had fallen across the road."
The New Zealand Air Force was on standby to help, but no official request had been made yet.
Jo McIntosh, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, said aid groups in Fiji would meet today to form a plan to help Samoa.
"Some of the big NGOs will meet today to discuss what the next steps are," she said.
"We also know the cyclone's tracking towards Northern Tonga and Fiji, so to come up with an idea of how we will deal with that."
She said the meeting today would assess how to get clean water to those affected, and logistics.
There are believed to be dozens of New Zealand tourists in the area and New Zealand High Commission officials were this morning trying to make contact with them.
Dozens of tourists who were caught at popular resort Aggie Grey's Hotel spent a large part of yesterday on the upper floors as flood waters destroyed much of the grounds around it.
Officials said after the cyclone eased off last night the guests, including a number of New Zealanders, were evacuated to Aggies Resort at Faleolo.
No one was hurt but a number have lost possessions.
One witness said the Vaisigano River swept into the hotel, destroying much of its famed fale restaurant and the premier fale rooms.
"The water is up to the third floor of the hotel and the guests are huddling in the upper rooms," the witness said.
No contact has been made with the popular backpacker and beach fale resorts on the south east coast at Aleipata.
But yesterdy staff at Aleipata's Taufau Beach Resort said they had moved guests out of the beach fales yesterday.
The area was badly hit during the tsunami which killed 189 people across the region.
The cyclone lingered over Samoa for much of yesterday, causing widespread damage.
In a midnight advisory the Samoa Meteorological Service said the storm had passed over the main island of Upolu, but was likely to stop heading north.
The Fiji Meteorological Service said Evan was moving east at 12 kmh and was anticipated to re-curve towards the west and intensify to a category three hurricane force within the next 24 hours.
FMS forecast Evan to move across northern parts of Tonga tomorrow and arrive in Fiji on Sunday.
FLIGHTS ON HOLD
Air New Zealand cancelled its flight in and out of Samoa yesterday, but it was yet to decided about today's flight.
It was yet to make a decision on whether its 8.05pm flight from Samoa would go ahead tonight.
If so, an extra flight would leave the island at 9.30pm to make up for a cancelled flight yesterday morning.
House of Travel spokesman Brent Thomas said the agency had about 100 New Zealanders hunkered down at resorts.
Staff were trying to contact providers in the area to assess the situation.
"Luckily it's low season because it's not Christmas and the peak season is during winter. A week or two later it would be a different story as families head over when school finishes.
"We're also concerned about the cyclone's path towards Tonga tomorrow and Fiji on Sunday."
Evan, the first cyclone of the South Pacific 2012-2013 season, is likely to be the first big test for a massive seawall built around Apia's Harbour following two ruinous cyclones in the 1990s.
In 1990, Cyclone Ofa killed seven people and a year later Cyclone Val passed over Samoa and then effectively stopped for five days over the islands killing 16 people and causing severe housing and agricultural damage.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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