A report from Apia says Cyclone Evan destroyed houses | Pacific Beat

A report from Apia says Cyclone Evan destroyed houses

A report from Apia says Cyclone Evan destroyed houses

Updated 14 December 2012, 10:38 AEDT

Tropical Cyclone Evan is now directly over Samoa, where it's been battering the country for several hours.

All flights have been cancelled, and a walkway at Faleolo International Airport has collapsed, although the main terminal building is okay.

Journalist Cherelle Jackson has been out and about in the capital Apia today, assessing the damage and seeing how people are coping.

She described the scene to Bruce Hill.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Journalist Cherelle Jackson

JACKSON: There's quite a lot of debris, a lot of trees being cut over, power poles down, floods in towns, it's pretty bad.
HILL: Where's the damage coming from? Is it wind, rain, storm surge, where's the damage coming from?
JACKSON: All of the above. The wind's picked up this afternoon which damaged a lot of homes, and then the rain picked up, and so by 4pm there was flash flooding all over town compromising the roads and traffic, so lots of people were stuck away from their homes. And then of course the storm surges in town have heavily affected the town area as well.
HILL: Is it difficult for emergency services to get around to emergencies they need to get to because they've got transport problems?
JACKSON: There have been reports, and I have seen some police officers having to get out of their vehicles to walk to the areas to advise people on where to go in case they needed to evacuate. But that is certainly an issue. However the emergency workers are out and about, and they are trying to clear the roads for people who need to get home.
HILL: Are vital services still operating, water, power, that sort of thing?
JACKSON: Absolutely not. In most of Apia urban area the water was cut off this afternoon about 12 to 1, as well as power. So there's power outage, all the power, a lot of power poles have been compromised.
HILL: Any idea when the power might be able to be restored? I imagine a lot of people will have food in refrigerators and power's something that you can't entirely do without these days?
JACKSON: No, but this morning it was quite busy in town with people stocking up on canned meats and candles and batteries and whatnot. But we have no idea as yet, the power poles have quite significant damage, so it might be a while, but we're not being advised.
HILL: Well you've been in the capital Apia. Have we had any reports about what conditions are like for some of the villages along the coast for example?
JACKSON: We've heard that some of the coastal areas near the town area have sustained significant damage, especially to the open houses. So people have moved further up and have moved to homes that are enclosed. As you know we do have an issue of having open fales, so a lot of people have tried to board up their homes, but others have clearly given up and moved to enclosed homes for the time being.
HILL: Well obviously open fales are not ideal in a cyclone because everything just goes straight through, there's nothing to block any wind at all, it's almost of no use.
JACKSON: Indeed.
HILL: How well prepared were Samoans for this? They had a few days warning that it was coming, so people were stocking up and getting ready. Was it enough do you think?
JACKSON: To be honest I don't think we were well prepared because the warnings didn't really get too serious until late last night. But yesterday there was still, yes it's a warning but there wasn't strong advice for people to go and prepare. So it was only this morning that people really were out and about preparing for the actual cyclone, but by then it had started. So some people didn't get enough warning, advice to start preparing.
HILL: What about the government? How's the government responding?
JACKSON: So far this is through the emergency services they've been really good, they've been off issuing every three hours advice to the public and updates on where the cyclone is headed and how severe it's going to get. Unfortunately a lot of people are cut off from the radio reception areas as well. So a lot of people are in the dark as well. But today the government advised the workers not to come in. But otherwise it's every man for himself at this point.
HILL: Well obviously when there's a big storm like this often all the fruit trees are down, coconuts are down, a lot of the storm surge you get saltwater inundation, a lot of vegetable gardens are destroyed, there's often a problem with food security in the aftermath of a cyclone, the place runs out of food. Is that likely to happen to Samoa this time do you think?
JACKSON: It's a really good question Bruce, we were just discussing it as we walked back to the house after being stranded in town. I think there will be a problem because for instance breadfruit trees, taro trees, banana trees, which are quite a staple part of our diet, the breadfruits are just falling over the road. I think it will be a while before we can get back to normal supply of things afterwards. But … a lot a few days after the cyclone.
HILL: And just based on what you've seen yourself, do you think that this is a case where Samoa might need some external assistance from its aid partners do you think?
JACKSON: From what I've seen certainly, almost certainly, especially with building supplies as well as food, because just where I am two of our neighbours have evacuated, their houses have been flattened. So where they've gone I don't know, but people like that will certainly need assistance.
HILL: People in Samoa are good at looking after other people aren't they? People are very generous and villages are a very welcoming environment. And in a case like this no one's going to find themselves without a place to sleep obviously?
JACKSON: That's true. So they simply just move to the next house that has people in it, and they will be taken in.
HILL: Just before we go Cherelle, if there's no power are radio stations able to operate and keep people informed of what's going on?
JACKSON: Some radio states are able to operate, but it's still quite touchy, like sometimes it's on and sometimes it's off because of the reception.


Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill


Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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