Caritas agencies in the Pacific are mobilising to provide cyclone relief and assistance to thousands of people in Samoa, Fiji and elsewhere affected by Cyclone Evan.

The Cyclone hit Samoa late last week, killing four people, while eight people are missing. The category four cyclone is currently hitting Fiji, where at least 37 evacuation centres are holding more than 3500 people in the north. It has also impacted the territory of Wallis and Futuna, and Caritas Oceania agencies are attempting to make contact to assess the extent of damage.

Caritas Samoa is helping shelter more than 1000 people in its own basement hall and in three other centres in partnership with the Red Cross.  Caritas Samoa has electricity generators for lighting, and is providing food and water at all the shelters.

‘As soon as the cyclone hit, we opened our hall for immediate shelter for neighbouring families who had discovered their homes were inhabitable,´ said Caritas Samoa Director Puletini Tuala. ‘Cyclone Evan battered our mainland and left us with no power. We initially did not have a generator for the evacuation centre but secured one on Saturday. Since the lighting has been available we noticed an influx in families coming to seek shelter and support.’

‘We are not sure how long shelter will be required. The need could go on for several weeks meaning that families will be here right through Christmas and into the new year period. It is an anxious time for us all,’ said Mr Tuala.

Most of the damage is in the downtown and suburban areas of Apia. Power and water supplies have been severely disrupted, and initial reports estimate more than 1000 homes destroyed.

Caritas Samoa has also distributed emergency relief items from six pre-positioned containers – four on the main island of Upolu, and two on Savai’i. Equipment such as hygiene kits, jerry cans, tarpaulins and kitchen sets has helped families establish temporary shelter and homes.

Despite their own concerns, Mr Tuala passed on messages of solidarity for neighbouring Pacific islands that also face the destructive power of the cyclone.

For more information contact Martin de Jong, Caritas New Zealand +64-4-496 1782 or +64-21-909 688 martin@caritas.org.nz or Angela Ford, Caritas Australia 0061 (0) 400 195 562 >angelaf@caritas.org.au