Aid for Samoa, Fiji as Evan heads NZ's way

The government will give an initial $820,000 to help relief efforts in Fiji and Samoa after Cyclone Evan left a trail of devastation in the two island nations, with the weather now heading toward New Zealand.

MetService says the cyclone is tracking south away from Fiji, with flights to and from the country expected to resume later on Tuesday.

Thousands of people took refuge in evacuation centres overnight, as the cyclone pounded northern parts of Fiji causing flooding and extensive damage. Roads were closed and power and water supplies were cut.

The cyclone earlier battered Samoa, leaving at least four dead.

A search for 10 fishermen missing from four fishing boats off Samoa was called off on Tuesday morning.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion, a French Navy Guardian aircraft and the Samoan police have spent the past three days searching for the boats, but weren't able to find any sign of the men.

"This is obviously a tragic outcome for the families of the men involved and our thoughts are with them," Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand spokesman Neville Blakemore said.

Damage to the main island of Upolu appears to be worse than from the 2009 earthquake and tsunami that killed 135 people.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully on Tuesday said the government will make a $600,000 immediately available to support relief and early recovery efforts in Samoa, including $50,000 pledged on Saturday.

Five additional New Zealand Red Cross workers will also travel to Samoa to help, and Mr McCully says the government will also consider further requests to help Samoa's long-term reconstruction effort.

The government will make $50,000 available immediately to Fiji, along with a $170,000 contribution to the Fiji Red Cross.

Tarpaulins, water containers, generators and chainsaw packs are also on the way to Fiji on commercial flights.

The government is looking at further funding for New Zealand-based non-government organisations with supplies already in Fiji.

Mr McCully says the government expects to provide more funding once damage assessments are complete.

Cyclone Evan is expected to pass within a few hundred kilometres of the northern North Island over the weekend, by which time it is unlikely to be a tropical cyclone - "but this is by no means certain", MetService chief forecaster Peter Kreft says.

"We're very conscious of the possibility of a track which takes Evan near East Cape. This would be a totally different ball game."

A large amount of tropical air from the cyclone means potentially heavy rainfall in places, including Northland, Auckland and Coromandel over the weekend, and strong onshore winds.

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