December 18, 2012

Fiji looks to rebuild after Evan's wrath

From: AAP December 18, 2012 8:40AM

TROPICAL cyclone Evan is slowly moving away from Fiji, after lashing the island nation with 200km/h winds and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

The Fiji Meteorological Service says the cyclone is tracking away from Fiji in a south-southwest direction.

Strong wind and heavy swell warnings remain in place, but flights to and from Fiji are expected to resume later today.

Thousands of people took refuge in evacuation centres overnight, while roads were closed and power and water supplies were cut to northern parts of Fiji.

Police were restricting the movement of people in and out of main towns and cities to ensure public safety, the Fiji Times reported.

Fiji's second-biggest city Lautoka, near the international airport at Nadi, was severely battered by the cyclone, with resident Janet Mason telling Radio New Zealand that an empty house had "flown through the air" and landed beside hers.

The bulk carrier ship Starford, believed to be carrying equipment for a Chinese firm constructing a highway, dragged its anchor and was pushed onto the reef in Suva Harbour, the Fiji Times reported.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the government had received a request for assistance from Fiji.

"We're working through an assessment of the damage and where we might best be able to help," he told New Zealand television.

"I suspect part of it will just be sending money. There's reasonably widespread damage in both Samoa and Fiji, so they'll need to restore a lot of their core infrastructure."

Meanwhile, the search continues for 10 fishermen missing from four boats off Samoa.

A New Zealand Air Force Orion searching for the fishermen found an upturned fishing boat hull on Monday night and it was being towed to Apia by Samoan police.

The Orion could be available for further searches on Tuesday.

Four people have already died in Samoa, and damage to the island of Upolu appeared to be worse than from a 2009 earthquake and tsunami that killed 135 people, according to aerial surveillance, a spokeswoman for the prime minister told Radio New Zealand.

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