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NZ to send assistance to Samoa for Cyclone Evan relief

Published: 6:40AM Saturday December 15, 2012 Source: ONE News

New Zealand will assist Samoa in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Evan, after the Pacific island nation requested help.

The New Zealand Government will help carry out surveillance and health assessments, as well as donating $50,000 dollars towards the relief effort, it announced today.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said his department is preparing to assist with the immediate response effort.

"At the request of the Samoan Government, New Zealand will provide a P3 Orion to undertake aerial surveillance and environmental health assessment expertise," he said.

"We have also made available $50,000 to assist with the on-the-ground response."

Samoan police confirmed to ONE News that four people, including a three-year-old girl, were killed when the cyclone tore through the country on Thursday afternoon. Seven people are still missing, including a number of children.

Cyclone Evan battered Samoa with winds of up to 190km/h, wreaking devastation to buildings and critical infrastructure. Power lines are down and there has been flash flooding in many areas.

Village destroyed

ONE News Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver saw the devastation first-hand, in the village of Magiagi, near Apia.

The river that runs through it broke its banks, sweeping away everything in its path, our correspondent says.

Survivors told her how they formed a human chain to pull children to safety.

"When the storm hit our side here, all the families tried to protect their houses and their children and their parents," said Solo Fa'auliuli.

But dozens of families in Magiagi lost everything they own as the water level rose by up to five metres.

A massive clean up operation is now underway across the country, even as police search for the missing.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the people of Samoa as they begin to come to terms with the loss of life and damage caused," McCully said.

He added that assessment of the damage is on-going and New Zealand will consider additional assistance if requested.

It comes as the New Zealand Red Cross deployed a senior representative to liase with its Samoan counterparts and offer additional assistance if needed.

Glenn Rose flew from Auckland Airport this morning after speaking with the Samoan Red Cross. It was the first flight to land in the capital, Apia, since the cyclone tore through the country.

He will help establish the extent of the damage and immediate humanitarian needs, as part of the Pacific Tropical Cyclone Response Plan.

Fiji braces

Meanwhile, having devastated Samoa, Cyclone Evan is now on a direct path towards Fiji, with warnings it could become even more vicious.

The Category Three Tropical Cyclone is expected to be upgraded to a Category Four over the weekend as it draws nearer to the country.

The Fiji Meteorological Service has warned the cyclone could threaten northern parts of Tonga on Saturday and reach Fiji by Sunday or early Monday.

Fiji's Prime Minister has warned people to stay at home, with police disaster management teams on standby.

The cyclone is set to disrupt the travel plans of hundreds of New Zealanders heading to Fiji in the coming days.

McCully advised New Zealand travellers to contact their airline or travel agent to about flight and accommodation bookings.

Those interested in offering assistance to Samoa are urged to donate to a humanitarian agency involved in the response, for example the Red Cross Pacific Disaster Response Fund..

- With AAP