Chiefs' cyclone fears

Last updated 09:23 14/12/2012

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Chiefs rugby player Tim Nanai-Williams is keeping an anxious eye on the brutal Cyclone Evan which has hit Samoa.

Last night the 23-year-old utility back tweeted: ''Hope everyone in Samoa is ok especially my mum hope to hear from her soon.''

Meanwhile, his team-mate Fritz Lee had better news this morning, tweeting: ''Its good to know that my family are safe and i can go training happy. Day five of our camp, hopefully we dont have surprises like yesterday.''

Cyclone Evan is set to hit Apia again this morning with greater force, after reportedly killing three people - including two children - yesterday.

The cyclone has already inflicted massive damage on the Samoan capital while details around the fatalities are not yet available.

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 New Zealand Air Force is on standby to help, but no official request has been made yet.

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 going north.

The Fiji Meteorological Service said that Evan was moving east at 12 kmh and 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 and warned communities to make emergency preparations.

Phones and electricity were out across much of Samoa and tourists in the south east Aleipata fled the coast.

There are believed to be dozens of New Zealand tourists in the area.

An early indication of the ferocity of the surge and heavy flooding was a report from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs which closed the High Commission on Beach Road, Apia, because of severe damage.

The New Zealand High Commission is nearby.

Aggie Greys Hotel in Samoa, further east on Beach Road and one of the Pacific's best-known hotels, has been heavily damaged by the cyclone.

An eyewitness says the Vaisigano River swept into the hotel, destroying much of its famed fale restaurant and the premier fale rooms.

Although the mobile phone networks remain operational, the lack of power means most cellphones are now drained.

One Samoan national on Twitter reported that the country's only McDonald's has been heavily damaged.

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Other pictures near the area suggest water if flowing heavily through the central Apia area.

Air New Zealand cancelled its flight in and out of Samoa. An Air New Zealand official confirmed that 136 passengers had checked in before it was cancelled and they hope to get them to Samoa today on a replacement charter flight.

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.

Evan may further intensify over the weekend hitting the vulnerable Tongan islands of Niuafo'ou and Niuatoputapu, both of which suffered severe damage in the 2009 South Pacific tsunami which killed 189 people across the region.

Samoa has experienced mostly quiet cyclone seasons since suffering major economic disasters in the early 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.

- Waikato

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