Thousands stranded in Fiji as cyclone approaches

Thousands of Australian tourist are stranded on Fiji’s main island as deadly cyclone Evan approaches.

Some boats and flights to resorts have been cancelled and popular tourist spots like the Mamanucas and Yassawas islands closed, with the category four storm expected to hit Fiji late on Sunday.

About 500 Australian school leavers were evacuated from Plantation Island and have secured flights out of the island just hours before a potentially deadly cyclone hits.

The students, from across Australia and New Zealand, were in the South Pacific as part of Unleased Travel ‘schoolie’ holidays.

Unleased Travel confirmed on its Facebook page that all students had boarded flights out of the Nadi, Fiji.

Parents of affected students have expressed their thanks, with Narelle Henney posting: ‘‘Great news! Thanks so much for taking great care of our kids’’.

The students were among 2700 Australians who left the island today.

Many already had tickets but some were originally left without a seat and faced the prospect of being left behind when category-four cyclone hits, estimated between 7am and midday tomorrow.

About 2000 Australians remain and will be forced to batten down and wait out the cyclone, which could produced winds up to 230km/h.


Blackburn mother Melissa Martyn, who is on a package holiday with her young family, said she had abandoned plans to stay four nights at Plantation Island Resort, one of those now closed to tourists.

Ms Martyn has instead hired a car with husband Aaron Alaimo to drive their children, aged 1 and 4, to the eastern side of Viti Levu.

‘‘It’s a little scary, but we are heading to the safer part of the island,’’ she said.  ‘‘Having little kids means I have to take action, I can’t just wait, wait, wait for updates.’’

She said other Australian tourists were waiting it out in transit hotels in Nadi, near the international airport.

Ms Martyn is already more than $2000 out of pocket because of the change of plans but is hoping to recoup some on travel insurance.

‘‘It’s cyclone season and if you book a holiday in the tropics, you take your chances.’’

Some Australians reported having received a text from the Australian High Commission advising that travel advice had been updated for Fiji.

‘‘Seek shelter, monitor news, obey local authorities. Please take care,’’ it read.

However, Ms Martyn said she had yet to receive such a text, even though she had registered with the Federal Government’s Smart Traveller service.

‘‘I checked the travel warnings before I left but there weren’t any, the last update was in September, so we’ve had absolutely no advice from the government,’’ Ms Martyn said.

Her brother, Tim Martyn, who lives and works in the Fijian capital of Suva, said there were fewer cars and people on the streets than usual, but the local Sunday market was still trading.

He and wife Sarah are among Suva’s workforce who were told to stay home from their jobs on Monday.

Cyclone shutters were being put up on windows and people were stocking up on water, cans of food and kerosine lamps in case the power goes out, he said.

‘‘This is life in the tropics,’’ he said. ‘‘If it’s not a cyclone, it’s floods, or it’s a tsunami. People are a bit flippant but because people have died in Samoa, people are being a bit more cautious.’’

Cyclone Evan killed at least four people in Samoa and left 3000 in temporary accommodation as it ripped through houses, knocked down power poles and trees, and caused flooding earlier this week.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama told the Australian Broadcasting Corp: ‘‘I cannot stress how serious this is - every Fijian will be affected".

‘‘(The cyclone) has winds up to 180 kilometres an hour which may intensify, and if the weather forecasters are correct it will affect Fiji in a very damaging way, bringing about destructive winds and flooding,’’ he said.

With Alana Schetzer