Tourists in Fiji prepare for Cyclone Evan
Scores of New Zealanders holidaying in Fiji’s most picturesque islands have been evacuated to the mainland.
Within the next few hours Cyclone Evan is expected to bring gale-force winds to the island of Vanua Levu around Labasa, before tracking towards the Yasawas, where storm-force winds of up to 130 km/h will make landfall around midday.
Camping out at Nadi International Airport, 10 students from Middleton Grange High School are trying to beat the cyclone and get home a day early.
“There are some parents who want their children home now, so we thought we would try for a flight today,” says teacher David Gillon. “We might be able to get some people on the flight but it's over booked.”
The tourist resorts on the West Coast at Denarau could be hardest hit. Visitors keen to leave checked out first thing this morning.
Tourist Chris Jacques was evacuated from one of the outer islands.
“Yesterday we were staying on one of the islands and they shipped us out,” he says. “So they shipped all the residents out and the last ones this morning – even the staff who have all got families have been sent off the island to go back to their homes.”
Those staying put are watching where the cyclone is tracking, with regular updates on the hotel message board.
“It is going to be pretty close,” says tourist Bruce Gollam. “I’m not too worried. I'm an Aussie.”
While it looked like business as usual today, hotel staff are preparing for the worst.
Right now is literally the calm before the storm. It is supposed to pass out to sea, but when it does arrive, there are going to be thunderstorms, rain and high winds. It will whip up damaging swells that could come over the rocks and come down into the resorts. It is definitely going to affect low-lying areas.
“If it does come to this stage around Fiji, we will be evacuating guests to a structural building like the ballroom, and that's a worst-case scenario,” says Evan Burns of the Westin Sheraton Hotel.
Honeymooners Clint and Rene Ledgard are determined to stay, and say they are “not worried”.
“We are going to hide in the bathtub with a mattress over our head,” says Mr Ledgard. “We don't know. We will see what happens.”
Back at the airport it looked like the girls from Christchurch were staying in Fiji.
“Some of us might get back to Christchurch,” says student Susie Vanderpyl. “The rest of us will wait here for another hour and then go find accommodation and wait out the cyclone.”
She says they do not mind staying in Fiji. If the cyclone does come tonight they will have a story to tell when they get home.