Fiji scrambles to evacuate tourists as monster storm Evan nears

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 6:16am


Fijian authorities scrambled to evacuate tourists and residents in low-lying areas yesterday as a monster storm threatened the Pacific nation with "catastrophic damage" after causing devastation in Samoa.

After crossing Samoa, Evan intensified as it ploughed through the Pacific and forecasters said destructive winds could reach nearly 300km/h by the time it hits Fiji early today.

At least four people were killed when Evan slammed into Samoa and the toll was expected to rise with a search launched for eight men missing on three fishing boats.

Only one survivor has been found, said the New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre, which is overseeing the search.

Fijian officials fear it could be as devastating as Kina, which killed 23 people and left thousands homeless in 1993.

Squally thunderstorms were expected to flood low-lying areas while coastal villages were at risk of sea flooding, authorities said.

The international airport at Nadi was packed as 850 tourists were removed from luxury resorts on outlying islands,

"The safety of the tourists was paramount," said Fiji Tourism and Hotel Association managing director Dixon Seeto, but with most flights booked the holidaymakers had little chance of getting out before the storm.

Fiji's main airline, Air Pacific, either cancelled or rescheduled its Monday flights, while other airlines said they were closely monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, it could be some days before the full extent of the damage in Samoa is known because of the difficulty reaching outlying islands.

About 4,500 people remained in emergency shelters after Evan destroyed houses.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele also warned of possible food shortages next year because crops were destroyed.