Tropical Cyclone Evan has become the first named cyclone of the South Pacific’s summer cyclone season. The storm made landfall near the Samoan capital, Apia, on Thursday with sustained winds of more than 110kph.
Storm and flood warnings remain in force here and a storm surge of up to 4.5 metres has recently been recorded along the Samoan coast. Some damage has already been reported at Apia’s airport, including a collapsed walkway.
Flash flooding has blocked many roads and the emergency services have been working hard to keep the roads clear.
Many trees have been downed. Phone lines and electricity are out across much of the country and tourists in the Aleipata area of southeastern Samoa have fled the coast for higher ground.
There are also reports that three people have died in the storm, but this has not yet been confirmed by the police in Samoa.
The storm was initially thought to be heading towards Pago Pago in American Samoa, and here preparations were underway here for the storm’s impact. People were boarding up their homes, buying in provisions and schools were closed. However, at the last minute, the storm made a sharp turn.
Evan crept northwards, intensifying as it continued to pour torrential rain across Samoa. Faleolo Airport reported 103mm of rain in the 24 hours up to 0600 on Thursday, but more is expected to have fallen elsewhere across the islands.
The sustained winds are currently estimated to be 185kph, with gusts up to 230kph. This means that it is the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane on the five-point Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.
Fiji will be directly affected on Sunday, by which stage the winds will still be up around 175kph with damaging gusts of 210kph. However, it is too early to tell whether Evan will make a direct impact on the island.