14 Dec 2012

Initial Samoa cyclone relief targets the homeless

5:47 pm on 14 December 2012

The Samoa Disaster Management Office says its first priority is to provide immediate assistance to the people in areas severely affected by tropical cyclone Evan.

The cyclone hit Samoa's main island of Upolu yesterday leaving major damage in its wake.

Samoa's Ministry of Police has confirmed two deaths following the cyclone.

The Metservice says it's now moving north at 16 kilometres per hour, towards the island of Savaii, and is 54 kilometres north-northeast of Apia.

Evan is expected to be upgraded to a category four storm in the next 12 to 24 hours.

A spokesperson for Samoa Disaster Management Office, Filomena Nelson, says the cyclone is still hovering over Samoa.

She says they have opened seven shelters for those made homeless by the cyclone.

"We have set up a number of shelters to receive evacuees in these areas and we have also provided relief supplies to take care of these evacuees in the centres in the form of food and non-food items."

The two fatalities from Cyclone Evan in Samoa are adults from Magiagi.

The editor of Le Weekend newspaper Merita Huch says one is a man in his 30s who was swept away while trying to rescue villagers, many of whom lived near the Magiagi river.

His body was found by police this morning by the Vasigano bridge.

Another death is of an inmate who was assigned to the assistant commissioner's house in Magiagi and had gone to check relatives residing in Magiagi village but was swept off by the strong currents.

His body has not been recovered.

Ms Huch says there are reports of children missing from families who reside near rivers or the ocean.

New Zealand is on standby to support Samoa after cyclone Evan, but the foreign minister says at this stage Samoan authorities are coping by themselves.

Murray McCully says High Commission staff have been visiting evacuation shelters in Apia, and they are coping well.

Fiji's permanent secretary for Information, Sharon Smith-Johns, has told local media that Cyclone Evan is likely to be the most powerful cyclone to hit Fiji since 1993.

It is expected over Fiji on Sunday.

She says it is going to be an extremely bad cyclone for Fiji and probably the worse since Cyclone Kina.

Ms Smith-Johns has asked radio stations to urgently relay the warnings to encourage people to start preparing for the storm.

Everyone needs to be completely aware that this is going to hit and it's going to be bad. That's the message that we need to get out to the general public. They shouldn't panic but they have to start doing things today.