By 3 News online staff / RadioLIVE / NZN
Tropical cyclone Evan is slowly moving away from Fiji after lashing the island nation with 200km/h winds and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
The cyclone is the worst to hit Fiji in nearly 20 years.
It has caused widespread flooding and structural damage but as yet no deaths or serious injuries have been reported, although the Fiji Times says there has been no communication from the Mamanuca or Yasawa island groups.
It earlier killed at least four people in Samoa, while 12 more people remain missing there.
The Fiji Meteorological Service says the cyclone is tracking away from Fiji in a south-south-west direction, but still poses some dangers.
Strong wind and heavy swell warnings remain in place, and Fijian MetService Forecaster Shalwyn Singh says flooding could pose a problem at high tide this morning.
"The storm surges might push water up the lowland coastal areas," he told RadioLIVE.
He says conditions should begin to ease today, but not before causing widespread devastation. It could be midday before the winds drop below gale force.
"Roofs being blown off houses, and also big trees and powerlines falling on houses, and also on the roads."
Airlines are resuming flights today, with Air Pacific departing Auckland for Nadi at 11am and Air New Zealand flying at 1pm and 2pm.
A Fijian official said yesterday that northern parts of the country had lost power and that some bridges and roads had been washed out after the cyclone first hit late on Sunday.
The official said about 3,500 people had evacuated to emergency shelters, and that the nation's advance preparation had helped prevent deaths.
The category four cyclone made its way south later on Monday with gale force winds of up to 270km/h an hour, destroying homes and breaking trees.
In Nadi, hundreds of people were evacuated to makeshift evacuation centres.
Hotels are relying on generators for electricity and tourists slept together in large conference rooms when their own became unsafe.
Destructive winds and driving rain terrified local residents of villages dotted across the coastline.
Police last night imposed a curfew to stop people from leaving their houses – not just for their own safety, but to prevent looting.
Lautoka, Fiji's second-largest city, has taken the brunt of Evan's fury. One resident told the New Zealand Herald of 18 homes in his area, only five still stood.
There are reports of ships being swept aground in Suva.
The bulk carrier ship Starford, believed to be carrying equipment for a Chinese firm constructing a highway, dragged its anchor and was pushed onto the reef in Suva Harbour, the Fiji Times reported.
AID COMING FROM NZ
Prime Minister John Key confirmed to Firstline this morning that the Government had received a formal request for help from Fiji.
The Government is making $50,000 immediately available to respond to specific requests, as well as donating $170,000 to the Fiji Red Cross.
Tarpaulins, water containers, generators and chainsaws are being sent over on commercial flights.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says further financial contributions are likely.
“We are also looking at further funding for New Zealand-based non-government organisations that have supplies pre-positioned in Fiji,” he says.
“It seems clear further help will be required and we expect to provide more funding once damage assessments are complete.”
If you wish to make a donation to those affected by Cyclone Evan, text “Evan” to 4741 to make an instant $3 donation to the Fijian Charitable Trust.
3 News / RadioLIVE / NZN