By 3 News online staff / NZN
The New Zealand Air Force will continue its search for eight fishermen missing off Samoa after Cyclone Evan hit, as people in Fiji brace themselves for the severe storm.
Four people died and eight fishermen from three boats are still missing after the cyclone ripped through Samoa last week. The Samoa Observer newspaper says up to 4,000 people were left homeless.
Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand says the P3 Orion and French Navy will continue to search for the men from 8am on Monday. They spotted a hull off Manono Island which may be from one of the missing boats.
The 30-year-old skipper of one of the boats managed to get ashore after his boat capsized but authorities are yet to interview him.
Disaster officials in Samoa said the damage is worse than that caused by the tsunami in 2009. Flood waters still surround villages and homes along the southern coast.
The building housing the Ministry of Health has been turned into a shelter. Staff say they are dealing with an increase in cases of people with respiratory illnesses.
"It’s a very serious health situation, in fact worse than the tsunami," says Health Ministry director general Talanutina Tupunatagi Toelupe. "With this situation these are people who are displaced and their homes are no longer there."
There have been some reports of power outages and phone lines remain cut-off in some areas, making communication difficult.
"We're just waiting," says Mangere MP Su'a William Sio. "I suppose in the past three days everybody's just been offering up prayers. All the services here have mentioned Samoa and the Pacific region as a whole."
Mr Sio says mobile phones appear to be the best way to make contact, and one American mobile network is apparently offering free battery charging in Samoa.
FIJI PREPARES FOR EVAN
Meanwhile, nearly 400 people are holed up in seven evacuation centres in northern Fiji where strong winds and rain are battering the area, the Fiji Times is reporting.
The cyclone, which is a category four on a five point scale, is expected to pass just north of Vanua Levu Island on Monday and southwest of the capital Suva on Tuesday, the Fiji Meteorological Service says.
"Damaging" swells will hit some northern coastal areas and flooding is expected, it says.
At the centre of the cyclone winds are reaching 170km/h with gusts of more than 230km/h. Evan yesterday was upgraded from category three to category four.
The Fijian government and officials are preparing emergency supplies of food and water. Those in low-lying areas are being urged to take shelter on higher ground.
The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is urging people in Fiji to keep in touch with their family in New Zealand and follow the directions of officials.
There were 462 New Zealanders registered with MFAT as being in Fiji on Sunday, a MFAT spokesman told NZ Newswire.
A number flights in and out have been cancelled or delayed. Air New Zealand however says it has not yet cancelled any flights. Jetstar doesn't fly direct to Fiji from New Zealand, but has cancelled one of its flights from Australia to Nadi.
TOURISTS MOVED INLAND
Tourists have been relocated from resorts to the mainland as Evan approaches.
"We are concerned about the capacity of this cyclone and have activated and mobilised our emergency response teams, disaster relief centres, police and military forces," said Elizabeth Powell, Tourism Permanent Secretary.
"The safety of our community and our international guests is our main concern, and we have established and stocked 300 emergency centres - should they be needed."
The military has imposed a curfew from 8pm to 6am, which it says is necessary to save lives.
New Zealanders in Fiji can get more safety information from http://www.safetravel.govt.nz.
The cyclone is expected to be downgraded to category three on Tuesday as it heads south.
3 News / NZN
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.