24 Jan 2011

American Samoa battered by cyclone, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji on alert

2:55 pm on 24 January 2011

American Samoa's Emergency Centre says people on Tutuila are being advised to boil water as Cyclone Wilma batters the island, causing power outages to some areas.

Centre spokesperson, Kaisia Felise, says winds of up to 130 kilometres per hour have affected the island.

He says so far there have been some landslides and debris on the road reported, as well as minor damage to some roofs and houses, and surface flooding in some low lying and coastal areas.

Kaisia Felise says some areas, including Aolau, are now experiencing power outages.

"Well we're still keeping the public informed, because some of the areas their power got shut down and we're giving out boil water notices. The rain is hard and so we're advising them to get rainwater as of now."

Kaisia Felise says emergency teams hope to restore power to affected areas by this evening.

Governor Togiola Tulafono activated the emergency centre this morning, bringing together ten government agencies for a coordinated response.

The US territory remains under a hurricane warning and the National Weather Service says people should stay in doors until the all clear is given this evening.

A hundred people in Aua are now housed at the Aua Elementary School because they lost the rooftops to their houses.

Some residents of Faleasao village were evacuated to Manu'a High School.

Power and telephone lines have been downed and the tramway cable from Utulei to Mount Alava has been broken.

Pago Pago International Airport is still closed and it's not clear when inter island flights can resume.

In the west, in Samoa, people have been aware of the bad weather for several days as Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia reports from Apia.

We've been advised and warned of this, of strong winds, as of mid last week but it continues up until early this week and people are now seriously taking the advice. We're still keeping our fingers crossed hoping that cyclone Wilma is not going to approach us later today.

The Fiji Meteorological Service says Cyclone Wilma is expected to escalate from a Category One to a Category Two cyclone in the next 18 to 24 hours.

Tropical cyclone forecaster Amit Singh says the slow moving cyclone is travelling at around 10 knots and should arrive in northern Tonga early tomorrow morning.

Areas like the Vava'u group and nearby should expect storm force winds, and Niuatoputapu, Ha'apai group and the other small islands, it should expect damaging gale force, and the rest of Tonga should expect fresh to strong winds.

Amit Singh says the cyclone is expected to bring gale force winds to the southern Lau group in Fiji.