Chch pupils hunker down for storm
Christchurch pupils are hunkering down in a Fiji hotel as Cyclone Evan moves in, bringing strong winds and rain.
Ten Middleton Grange School pupils and three staff have taken shelter in a hotel near Nadi Airport as the cyclone moves closer to the island of Viti Levu.
Three pupils managed to catch the last flight back to New Zealand last night.
Cyclone Evan, a category 4 storm on a five-point scale, has been pounding areas of Fiji with high winds and rain, after devastating swaths of Samoa.
Authorities have urged people in Nadi, which is low-lying and has been flooded twice this year, to make for higher ground.
Middleton Grange teacher David Gillon said the storm was expected to reach its height about 8pm, with winds of up to 270kmh likely.
"The winds are increasing; they're bending coconut trees. Fronds are falling to the ground. What we're doing is just staying in the hotel simply for safety reasons because things are falling around us," he said.
He said the pupils were safe in the hotel and were handling the situation "very responsibly".
Middleton Grange principal Richard Vanderpyl said he was "quite confident" they were safe.
His daughter, Lucie, is one of the pupils still in Fiji.
"What's happened in Samoa has given them an indication of what to expect, but you really don't know what's going to happen until the cyclone hits," he said.
One of the three pupils who flew back last night, Ashleah Kirk, 18, said that before she left the weather was calm.
"There was no wind whatsoever. It was actually kind of creepy," she said.
She said there was a "mixture of emotions" among those who left.
"I probably wouldn't have minded staying but I'd been sick in Bounty Island,'' she said.
''I miss being with them. I wanted to share the experience with them. I kind of wish everyone got on the plane, but I know they'll be all right."
The group has been in Fiji since December 7 and was due to return home yesterday. The other members of the group are now expected to fly back tomorrow, depending on the weather.