Samoa counts the costs after Cyclone Evan
By 3 News online staff
Samoa’s repair bill is expected to exceed $200 million, and the government says the country needs the help of the international community to rebuild.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi inspected some of the damage caused by Cyclone Evan and says most of it was caused by severe flooding rather than heavy winds.
He says the top priorities are ensuring the displaced have somewhere to live and that electricity is restored as soon as possible so that hospitals and businesses can get back on their feet.
Politicians are meeting today to consider the government’s first budget for 2013 and part of that will now involve making special allocations to assist the more than 4,500 people who have been displaced by the cyclone.
The state of emergency has been extended for the next 30 days, which gives the government special powers to pass laws to speed up the cleanup process.
The New Zealand Red Cross has deployed a specialist team and an emergency grant of $10,000 to help deal with the damage.
Air NZ is allowing all passengers flying from Auckland to Apia until December 30 to take one extra piece of checked luggage, up to 23kg, free of charge.
SEARCH FOR MISSING FISHERMEN CALLED OFF
Meanwhile, the search for 10 fishermen missing from four boats off Samoa has been called off.
After three days of searching, the New Zealand Air Force Orion, a French Navy Guardian aircraft and the Samoa Police have failed to find any sign of the men.
If their deaths are confirmed, it would bring the number of casualties to 14.
The Orion found an upturned fishing boat hull on Monday night and it was being towed to Apia by Samoan police, but it is not known if it is one of the missing vessels.
Yesterday it emerged that one young fisherman who was believed to have drowned washed ashore after spending two nights clinging to a piece of wood in the ocean.
Asa Punasi said he watched helplessly as his father drowned and other crews on fishing boats got sucked under a whirlpool formed when the cyclone hit.
Punasi said he and his father were trying to help the other boats that got into difficulty.
"When we got to where the boats were, they were spinning around in circles. We tried to help them, but we couldn't," Punasi told 3 News.
He said he drifted for hours being battered by waves.
"I was thinking about my father when I saw a stick and reached for it. I used it and part of a coconut tree to keep my head above water," Punasi said
He said he drifted in and out of consciousness and opened his mouth to catch some rainfall.
He said he drank a lot of seawater.
Punasi was eventually washed ashore early on Friday morning and found a local pastor's house and was taken to hospital.
To donate to the New Zealand Red Cross' Pacific Disaster Response Fund, go to www.redcross.org.nz/donate.
AP / 3 News / RadioLIVE