By Angela Ford

Caritas emergency response teams in the Pacific are preparing for emergency relief as one of the most powerful cyclones to hit Samoa in 20 years devastates Apia.

Cyclone Evan made landfall on Thursday 13 December, with winds up to 160 km per hour. At least two people have died, and many are missing.

Samoa has declared a state of disaster with widespread structural damage to outlying buildings, homes and critical infrastructure. Locals have been left without power and food shortages are possible.

Caritas Samoa report that flooding in Apia is widespread, powerlines and trees are down and many homes are destroyed. Flooding is the major cause for concern in the short-term, with water levels up to 8ft in areas.

Mr Puletini Tuala Caritas Samoa Director reports, “the most urgent need at this stage is for water and tinned food. We are planning for an initial assessment of damage in coastal areas near Apia this afternoon. And will execute a wider assessment and response over the coming days.”

The power plant has been destroyed which will take a while to replace and power is off across the whole country. Caritas Samoa is running an evacuation centre at the hall where their office is based in Apia. Caritas Samoa has some prepositioned goods in four containers in Upolo and two in Savai’i.

Jack de Groot, Caritas Australia CEO says, “Our Caritas emergency response teams across the Pacific in New Zealand, Samoa, Australia and our regional Caritas Oceania staff are in constant contact with each other and are preparing to support Caritas Samoa in any emergency relief required.”

The latest update shows that Cyclone Evan will not hit Samoa for a second time, however it is now on track to move towards Tonga this evening. Tropical Cyclone warnings are in place for the northern Tongan islands of Niuafo’ou and Nuiatoputapu, the island devastated by the 2009 Pacific Tsunami.

Cyclone Evan is expected to arrive in Fijian waters by Sunday 16 December.

Source: Caritas Australia