Fijians living in low-lying areas were urged to flee to higher ground yesterday as a cyclone bore down on the South Pacific nation after leaving a trail of destruction in Samoa with up to 10 feared dead.
Cyclone Evan is intensifying and is expected to be packing winds of up to 230km an hour by the time it arrives in Fiji later today.
Government officials feared it could be as devastating as Cyclone Kina which killed 23 people and left thousands homeless in 1993.
“I cannot stress enough how serious this is. Every Fijian will be affected but we must take preventative steps now,” Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama told the nation of 900,000.
“Because this is the festive season I ask you to consider canceling social events and to act responsibly, all of us need a clear mind for what is bearing down on us,” he said.
More than 60 evacuation centers have been set up in northern areas of Fiji and residents were being urged to move in to them before the storm hits.
“We are advising people to move to high ground, those who are living in lower-lying areas,” the National Disaster Management Office’s Asesela Biuviti said.
“This is going to be an extremely bad cyclone to hit us and probably the worse that we’ve seen since Cyclone Kina,” Permanent Secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns added.
Meanwhile, in Samoa the confirmed death toll from Cyclone Evan rose to three with another seven people missing and feared dead after being swept away when Apia’s Vaisigano River burst its banks.
About 3,000 people remained in emergency shelters after their homes were either destroyed or left without essential services including power and water, the New Zealand High Commissioner in Samoa Nick Hurley said.
A clean-up was under way with fallen trees and power poles removed to open main roads but progress was slow and it could be another two days before the full extent of the damage was known, he added.
There was no electricity on the main Samoan island Aporo, apart from private generators.