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Fiji begins to repair Cyclone Evan destruction

Published: 5:48AM Tuesday December 18, 2012 Source: ONE News

A massive clean-up is underway across Fiji as it deals with the destruction wrought by the biggest cyclone in 20 years

The Island nation escaped Cyclone Evan without any fatalities, but homes were ruined, roads and bridges flooded and ships grounded in the heavy rain and hurricane-force winds.

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Fijian Authorities are now urging some of the more than 8,000 people who had been evacuated to emergency shelters to return home.

A statement from the Ministry of Information said that evacuees at Lomaiviti evacuation centres in Moturiki, Gau and Koro Island are to vacate with the exceptions of those families whose homes had been destroyed by Cyclone, the Fiji Times reports.

Water and power services remain disrupted across the country, while public transport services have resumed.

'I actually quite enjoyed it'

The cyclone provided an unexpected adventure for a visiting group of Canterbury students.

"At some stages it was a bit freaky, but I actually quite enjoyed it," said Grange School student Lucinda Starink.

Fellow student Marcus Burton was in the bedroom of his holiday accommodation when a massive gust of wind caused the roof to collapse.

"I was down on my knees and it wasn't until afterwards that I realised that it actually split above my head and fell around me," said Burton.

Flood warnings

Flood warnings remain in place for low lying areas. Several main roads have been closed on the main island of Viti Levu because of fallen trees and there is power and telecommunication outages across fiji.

ONE News reporter Paul Hobbs ventured out of his hotel this morning and told Breakfast it was "not much of a sleeping night" with the winds lashing the hotel for much of the night.

"I've woken up this morning and we've seen the devastation out on the streets. I mean it looks like a nature chicane on the roads. There are trees, palm trees, branches everywhere. There are fences down," he said.

Tourist resorts on many of Fiji's palm-fringed islands were evacuated and authorities warned people to remain in shelter as the cyclone battered the country, blowing over trees and destroying houses.

Authorities said Cyclone Evan had generated destructive winds, torrential rains and was likely to lead to flooding due to a storm surge as it passes to the northwestern side of the main Fiji islands of Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, with wind gusts up to 270 kmh.

Fiji's met service said cyclone Evan was rated a category four storm, the second highest level.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has ordered public servants to stay at home and he put emergency services on standby.

Hospitals and health centres have been closed for all but emergency patients.

Power supplies have also been cut to some areas as a precaution against falling power lines, including in the main tourist town of Nadi.

Flights take off again

Meanwhile, Air Pacific flights are operating between New Zealand and Fiji today, at revised times, after all flights were cancelled yesterday because of the cyclone.

A special Auckland-Nadi flight took off at 9.30am today carrying passengers who had been disrupted.

This was a return leg of Sunday's special Nadi - Auckland service which flew at full capacity with 162 passengers and assisted visitors who wanted to leave Fiji before the cyclone hit the country.

The airline is asking passengers to check Air Pacific's website for additional updates before attempting to contact the call centre which it says it experiencing extremely high call volumes due to the effects of the cyclone.

'A resilient bunch'

Hobbs said people seem jovial in Fiji this morning and a lot feared it could be a lot worse than a category four storm.

"It never struck land here and most of the eye of the storm was offshore, so I guess we'll soon learn in the coming hours the extent of the devastation," he said.

Hobbs said the people had a week's warning of the cyclone, saw death and destruction from it in Samoa and were prepared.

"But most people live in very modest homes and they're not geared for these sort of tropical cyclone winds of a level of four. It is going to be a pretty tough ask for these people to bounce back," he said.

Hobbs said some people he spoke to at an evacuation centre last night had their houses under water just months ago, but  "they're a resilient bunch and often wear a smile soon after these sorts of experiences".