Fiji battered by Cyclone Evan
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Cyclone Evan has wrecked homes, brought down trees and caused flooding across Fiji's main island.
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The biggest cyclone in 20 years to hit the Pacific island nation is believed to have been destroyed a number of homes in Fiji’s second largest city, Lautoka, in western Viti Levu.
Tonight power was cut and land and mobile phone lines went down, but before they were lost, there were reports of major damage.
On the northern coast of Viti Levu, flood waters hit Ba, Raikiraki and Tavua.
In Suva Harbour, two container ships have run aground and are struggling to stay afloat as they’re pounded by rough seas, coinciding with a 10pm high tide.
There were no reports of death or injury.
By 11pm the cyclone had moved south of Nadi and winds in the area have eased, MetService said.
Storm-force winds were still forecast for Fiji, though these are expected to ease overnight, and by the morning the cyclone will have moved south of the country, meteorologist Bill Singh said.
It was still too early to predict if the storm would reach New Zealand, but early models say the tail-end of the cyclone, a deep low, could reach the upper North Island on Saturday, he said.
The Fiji Times reported police officers across Fiji had restricted the movement of people in and out of the main towns and cities until 6am tomorrow, to protect businesses from those who may want to take advantage of the situation.
Tourist resorts on many of Fiji’s palm-fringed islands were evacuated and authorities set up more than 60 evacuation centres.
Before phone contact was lost, Wellington lawyer Janet Mason said the upper part of her house in Lautoka had been destroyed.
She had said the weather was extreme and dramatic.
She said an empty house had flown through the air and landed beside hers.
"Another house has completely disintegrated, its roof is in the trees."
Debris is everywhere and much of it is flying through the air.
"Everything is going, all the trees are being destroyed, there will be nothing left."
In her own home, the roof was coming off and she was losing windows.
"It's really bad, it never stops. The wind is howling so strong and it is raining, except the wind is so strong you cannot see the rain.”
Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley said Lautoka city looks like a war zone.
“It's something a lot of people there never expected. They didn't expect the cyclone to hit them to that extent," Wesley said.
"According to people on the ground ... they have never seen anything like this.
"Very, very strong winds, waves, rain, but I think what's worrying was the very, very strong winds," he said.
"For buildings to lose their roofs like that, it's a reflection of how powerful the cyclone was."
So far there had not been any reports of casualties as a result of the storm.
A massive clean-up was expected.
"We are waiting for this to go before we start moving around, but from the reports that we've managed to get from our teams on the ground this is not looking good at all," Wesley said.
Fiji police tonight imposed a curfew across Viti Levu in a bid to stop any movement of people.
Fiji authorities have lost contact with the areas of Levuka and Kadavu.
In the capital, Suva, a container ship and a bulk carrier were struggling to stay afloat in wave surges of up to five metres and while the immediate concern is for their crews, any shipwreck would pose an environmental disaster.
Both the 14,000 ton bulk carrier ship Starford and the Singapore-flagged Capitaine Tasman, 9725 tons were at anchor while aground but appeared to be struggling without any help from tugs.
Photos show the stranded Capitaine Tasman is heavily laden with containers. She appears closest to shore.
Cyclone Evan, which has already wrought WST$300 million (NZ$157 million) damaged and left four people dead and 12 missing in Samoa.
A Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman said 526 New Zealanders were registered in Fiji.
All flights into and within Fiji were grounded this morning. Air New Zealand said today's flights to Nadi had been delayed until tomorrow.
A spokeswoman said NZ752, which would normally depart Auckland at 10.15am and then return to Auckland as NZ753, would leave a day later.
Fijian airline Pacific Sun had put a halt to all flights between Suva and Nadi to Labasa, Taveuni, Savusavu and Kadavu.The rescheduled departure time for NZ752 is now 12.30pm tomorrow. The regular scheduled Tuesday flight to Nadi (NZ52) will still operate at its regular departure time of 06.50am.
KIWI KIDS CAUGHT
Christchurch pupils were hunkering down in a Fiji hotel.
Ten Middleton Grange pupils were in Fiji completing mission work when the cyclone warning came.
Three pupils managed to catch the last flight back to New Zealand yesterday, but seven had to stay overnight in Fiji with school staff as the flights were overbooked. The year 13 pupils were aged 17 and 18.
Teacher David Gillon said the storm was expected to reach its height about 8pm.
"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," Gillon said.
He said the pupils were safe in the hotel and were handling the situation "very responsibly".
DESTRUCTION IN SAMOA
Evan last week destroyed much of Samoa's capital Apia and left a death toll of at least four with a further eight people missing.
Yesterday it transformed from a category 3 cyclone to a 4, on a 5-point scale, and powered across the French islands of Wallis and Futuna
The head of the Wallis and Futuna administration's cabinet, Benjamin Gerard, says Wallis felt more direct impact than Futuna.
"About 20 houses have been damaged," he told Radio New Zealand International.
"It's the roads that have been damaged... and damages have been to infrastructures rather than to people. The most important thing is that not a single death or casualty has really been caused."