15 Dec 2012

Thousands homeless in Samoa amid fears Cyclone Evan death toll will rise

6:45 pm on 15 December 2012

More than 3,000 people have sought temporary accommodation in Samoa after the country felt the brunt of Tropical Cyclone Evan twice in two days.

The category four cyclone caused extensive damage to Samoa's power system, agriculture and housing.

The Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has toured Upolu, the worst hit of the two main islands.

He says the greatest damage has been from flooding, especially around Apia.

"A lot of houses have been completely demolished. Between three to four thousand are holed up in the major public buildings: school buildings, gymnasiums and hospital halls."

Tuilaepa says at least four people are confirmed to have died.

This has been from reports of the police who went out to look for some of the reported people missing and ended up finding two other bodies that were never reported. The fear is that there may be a few more that are unreported for the time being.

The efforts of disaster assessment teams have been hampered by outages in the cell phone network.

The extent of the damage is slowly becoming more clear.

Upolu's breadfruit and banana plantations have been devastated raising the possibility of food shortages over the next 12 months.

The Prime Minister has appealed to village chiefs to rally their communities to help clear the roads.

He says the island's electricity network is extensively damaged.

Our Electric Power corporation is working overtime, 24 hours. It could take anything from two to four weeks to try and repair all the electricity lines right through Upolu.

Cyclone Evan is intensifying as it passes by Wallis and Futuna and moves towards Fiji.