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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Authorities Assess Damage From Cyclone Evan In Fiji
Houses blown down, but ‘massive destruction’ avoided

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Dec. 19, 2012) – Officials in Fiji are assessing the damage after Cyclone Evan hit the Pacific island nation, causing major flooding and packing destructive 270 kilometer per hour winds.

More than 3,500 people spent the night in emergency shelters in Fiji as the biggest cyclone in 20 years swept past the island nation.

Some parts of Fiji recorded up to 200 millimeters of rain in a 24-hour period as the category four storm passed to the north-western side of the main Fijian islands of Vanua Levu and Viti Levu.

There has been widespread flooding, homes have been destroyed and some bridges and roads were damaged.

Electricity was out in many areas on Tuesday and there were reports of widespread damage to smaller islands.

But Fijian authorities say there have been no reported casualties, unlike in neighboring Samoa, where it killed at least four people late last week and left another 10 missing.

"The damage seems to be (to) local houses but there wasn't any great pockets of massive destruction anywhere," government spokeswoman Sharon Smith-Johns told Radio Australia.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Fijilive, authorities have declared a state of natural disaster for both the North and West divisions in Fiji. The declaration will remain in effect for 15 days and will allow relief work to be expedited while residents begin to retun to their homes.]

Suva-based meteorologist, Neville Koop, said many people were expected to remain at evacuation centers over the coming days.

"A lot of the evacuation centers were open very early in the north of the country and in the west, and in the central division," he said.

"The experiences of Cyclone Evan over Samoa has given people sort of a very vivid picture of what the potential was of damage for this system. So it looks as though many people took advantage of that opportunity to seek shelter early."

Delas Whippy lost everything when a tree smashed into his home.

"We were hiding here, myself and my wife, we were in here when the tree fell on it and the top just burst through," he said.

Flights in and out of Fiji resumed on Tuesday.

Fijian carrier Air Pacific said the majority of its flights had been rescheduled on a delayed basis with business expected to be back to usual by Thursday.

ABC reporter Matt Wordsworth said the wind was "furious, absolutely furious, for about five or six hours it was blowing ferociously. We were staying bunkered down in an evacuation centre in Nadi, with about 450 locals who'd moved out of their homes because they were too afraid that they wouldn't withstand the force of the wind or the rain that might flood them out of there.

"So it was blowing very, very loudly, people were fairly cheerful, although some people actually ventured out into the cyclone because they were so worried about their homes. There was bits of debris flying around everywhere, so it was quite dangerous."

The Australian Government has begun delivering aid to Fiji.

During the height of the cyclone, a curfew was issued across Fiji as a precaution.

The interim government became worried that businesses and homes could be targeted by looters because so many people were in evacuation centers.

But some locals took the steps of guarding their own places, sitting there in the storm to protect them from anybody who might try and take advantage of the situation.

Last week, Cyclone Evan killed four people when it hit Samoa as a category one.

As it churned through warm waters, it gained size and energy hitting the islands of Fiji as a category four.

The Australian Government has committed an initial AU$1 million [US$1.05 million] in emergency aid to the region and says it expects to provide more assistance.

"At this stage the request includes things like water tanks, a range of water containers, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts, tarpaulins, soap, generators, tents, even protective clothing," AusAID spokesman John Davidson said.

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra
Copyright 2012 Radio Australia. All Rights Reserved


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