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Floods as cyclone Evan lashes Samoa

20:13 Thu Dec 13 2012

Flash floods and power cuts have hit the Samoan capital Apia as tropical cyclone Evan lashed the Pacific island nation with high winds and heavy rain, witnesses say.

Meteorologists said the category two cyclone, packing wind gusts exceeding 120 kilometres per hour, made landfall in the early afternoon on Thursday and was expected to intensify after moving out to sea.

Apia resident Cherelle Jackson said the cyclone uprooted trees and caused widespread flooding, cutting power to much of the city and blocking roads. Police advised locals to make their way to evacuation centres.

"There's lots of debris flying around and coconut trees going down," she told AFP. "It's really dangerous to try to drive around, some people are already evacuating."

She said parts of the city's airport were damaged, but there were no reports of injuries.

While cyclones are relatively common in Samoa, Apia local Toaumu Taseni said Evan was exceptional.

"I have never seen it this bad, this is very significant and scary," he said, as he nailed tarpaulins to his home to try to keep torrential rain at bay.

The US embassy in Samoa set up a hotline for citizens caught in the storm and advised them to move away from coastal areas.

In travel advice, the Australian government said the cyclone was "causing damage to local services and infrastructure, including communications and electricity services and Faleolo International Airport".

"The Australian high commission in Apia has closed until further notice due to storm damage," it said.

The Fiji Meteorological Service, which provides forecasts for the South Pacific, said the cyclone was expected to head out to sea but could curve back and intensify to category three.

It said the cyclone could threaten Tonga on Friday and reach Fiji by Sunday.

"All communities in Fiji should be prepared now, heed warnings and act responsibly to avoid unnecessary loss of lives and property," it said.

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