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Eight confirmed missing in Samoa

Sunday 16 Dec 2012 7:48 a.m.

Rudy Bartley surveys the damage in Lelata, Samoa, just outside of Apia

Rudy Bartley surveys the damage in Lelata, Samoa, just outside of Apia

By Cleo Fraser

A New Zealand Air Force plane has joined the search for eight men from three fishing boats missing off Samoa after Cyclone Evan ripped through the Pacific nation this week, killing four people.

About 4000 people have been displaced and are being housed in emergency shelters after the storm damaged homes, knocked down power poles and trees, and caused flooding.

A statement from Maritime New Zealand says a P3 Orion searched for the three fishing boats for five hours today.

The 30-year-old skipper of one of the boats has reached Monono Island, between Savai'i and Upolu, but has not yet been interviewed by authorities.

It is believed he survived by clinging to debris after the boat capsized on Friday.

One vessel has been found washed up on Apolima Island, but it hasn't been confirmed as one of the missing vessels and its crew haven't been found.

A tug boat is travelling from Apia, about two hours away, in rough sea conditions to investigate.

The boats are all nine metre, twin-hulled, aluminium vessels fitted with outboard motors and were due to return from fishing trips on Friday.

The P3 Orion has returned to Apia to refuel and will continue its search tomorrow morning.

Earlier today Senior Constable Mike Dua said police have grave fears for those missing.

The cyclone was expected to hit Fiji today, but its path has shifted and it is now expected to hit just north of Vanua Levu tomorrow and northwest of Nadi on Tuesday, Fiji Meteorological Service says.

Winds gusting up to 230km/h are possible and damaging waves are expected to batter the Fiji coastline, it says.

"This cyclone will definitely affect all of us so be prepared," disaster management co-ordinator Eseroma Ledua told The Fiji Times.

"Don't take the weather warnings lightly."

Cyclone Evan is still listed as a category four storm, but is expected to be downgraded on Tuesday.

Residents in Tonga are being warned of flooding and gale force winds as the cyclone passes today.

A state of disaster was declared in Samoa, where 200,000 people live, after Evan swept in from the Pacific and hit the capital Apia on the main island Upolu on Thursday.

At least two children are among the dead.

It is expected to take two months to restore power to some areas.

A water treatment plant has also been destroyed.

The New Zealand Government has provided $50,000 of aid to Samoa and the P3 Orion plane to survey the area.

New Zealand High Commissioner to Samoa, Nick Hurley, said that Cyclone Evan was the worst to hit Samoa since the 1990s.

The 130 New Zealanders registered in Samoa are safe and well.

NZN

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