Chch pupils leave cyclone-ravaged Fiji

Chch pupils recount their cyclone experience

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 10:54 19/12/2012
Middleton Grange pupils
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

SAFE AND SOUND: Middleton Grange School principal Richard Vanderpyl hugs year 13 teacher Lynne Scott after pupils and staff returned to Christchurch from cyclone-hit Fiji.

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Christchurch pupils caught up in Cyclone Evan in Fiji have arrived home safe.

Ten Middleton Grange School pupils and three staff arrived in Christchurch this morning as Fijian authorities began the massive task of cleaning up after the category 4 storm that saw roofs ripped from homes and churches, roads flooded and thousands forced to evacuate their homes.

The group had hunkered down in a hotel near Nadi Airport as the cyclone battered the island nation on Monday.

Pupils told The Press today that they went through a raft of emotions, from fear to excitement and sympathy for the Fijians left to pick up the pieces.

Lucinda Starink, 17, said that while she was a bit "freaked out", it was an "adventure".

"It was a bit freaky, but we were all ready for it. None of us were really scared. If you're nervous, it would just make things worse."

The noise from the wind, torrential rain and devastation occurring outside was blaring, she said.

"We could hear trees falling over and roofs coming down ... [The next day] it was sad to see Fiji in ruins,'' she said.

''There were trees everywhere. Everyone was out cleaning. It would've been really cool to have stayed and helped a bit longer."

Shery Hanna, 18, said a big gust of wind caused the ceiling in one of their rooms to "sag".

When someone opened the door, the ceiling collapsed, she said.

"Our teacher was sleeping in the room just before. We're so thankful she wasn't there [at the time]."

She said the experience brought the already tight-knit group even closer. "We were in it together."

Middleton Grange School principal Richard Vanderpyl said parents were relieved to see their children walk through the terminal.

The group had been in Fiji since December 7 carrying out missionary work.

Meanwhile, a state of natural disaster has been declared in the northern and western divisions of Fiji.

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 or injuries.

Most tourist resorts sustained minor damage, but power and communications remain down in parts of the country.

The state of natural disater will remain in effect for 15 days.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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