4 confirmed dead 8 missing from Cyclone Evan

Flood waters drove this car hanging next to a Lelata resident’s wall. PHOTO by Angie Kronfeld

by Lance Polu

SATURDAY 15 DECEMBER 2012: Police have confirmed that four are dead and eight are still missing from Cyclone Evan that lashed the Samoa island group for three days gusting winds of up to 100 miles per hour and bursting rivers bank forcing flash floods with similar force and magnitude to that of a tsunami.

The eldest is a sixty year old lady who police say had a heart attack while she was being helped to relocate when the river flooded at Lelata. The other was a 40 year old of Tafitoala who was washed by the bursting river that cut the main cross island road that has been inaccessible to traffic on the southern side of Upolu island. The other two were a three year old of Lelata and a 34 year old man of Maagiagi – two villages worst hit by the floods.

Police also say 8 others are missing, five of whom are fishermen who went out fishing on Monday before the cyclone struck.

Despite the strong force winds of up to 70 and 100 miles per hour, it was the flashfloods around the main rivers at Vaisigano and Vaimoso that did the most damage. Families around Lelata bridge, Maagao and Leone suffered floods compared to the force of a tsunami. Residents say it happened very fast as the water had gather uphill from the heavy rains before the huge body of water was released gathering trees, trunks, boulders mud and everything in its way.

Cars have been rammed into houses and furniture and household items are scattered everywhere and covered in thick muddy water. Residents have been cleaning all day and trying to recover what they can as it is the worst flooding they have been through.

At the outlet to the sea, through the Vaisigano bridge, its the highest of water levels that even ran on top of the bridge and was deemed unsafe at the height of the flooding yesterday.

It was the same at Sinamoga with rivers that run through Vaimoso. Huge tree trunks, boulders and mud have been washed through by the force of the water and enveloped a family right next to the bridge at Sinamoga. The water then ran freely to affect nearby families and caused flooding right through to the LDS Temple at Pesega, Vaimoso and even Lepea to the West.

Much of the other damage was to electricity poles that simply fell over even though no trees fell on them. The electricity in Upolu island has been turned off since Wednesday night but the damage to the poles and broken lines would require sometime before the electricity is fully restored. Electricity was still on in Savaii but people had difficulty buying cashpower.

Lack of electricity limited communication through mobile phones and internet connections and limited Radio and TV stations who did not have alternative power supplies.

The National Emergency Council called a meeting today but the outcome is not known. It earlier decided that a state of emergency was not warranted given the circumstances after the first day of the cyclone.

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