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Fiji: Cyclone Evan Leaves Trail Of Destruction
Tropical Cyclone Evan has left a swathe of destruction across Fiji, destroying homes, flooding rivers and stranding thousands of tourists.
The storm hammered the Pacific nation for more than 12 hours.
But, despite the damage, officials reported no fatalities as the storm headed out to sea on Tuesday morning and was downgraded a notch to category three.
Neighbouring Samoa had no advance notice when Evan pummelled it late last week and officials there said the official death toll had risen to five, with up to 10 people still missing.
Fears that Evan would rival the deadly force of Cyclone Kina, which killed 23 people when it swept through Fiji in 1993, proved unfounded, largely due to extensive planning as the storm advanced.
However, Fijians face a long road to recovery on an island where entire houses have been blown away.
Almost 8,500 people had sheltered in evacuation centres and thousands of tourists, many of whom were relocated from other islands for their own safety, rode out the storm on main island Viti Levu's resorts.
"Everyone was hunkered down, the winds were so strong last night (Monday) you couldn't even open your doors, it was over 200km per hour (125 mph)," said Marc Hinton, a New Zealander visiting Fiji.
Western parts of Viti Levu saw the most destruction, as Evan tore through the area overnight.
The Fiji Times have described the township of Lautoka in Viti Levu as a "war zone".
"The destruction this cyclone has caused is beyond words. Not one house has been spared here," Lautoka resident Melaia Waisele said.
Samoa's Disaster Management Office (DMO) said almost 5,000 people were still in evacuation centres and power remained off in much of the country.
DMO spokeswoman Filomena Nelson said the damage caused by the storm, estimated by the government to cost $130m (£80m), was more extensive than when a tsunami hit the country in 2009, killing 143 people.
"While the cost in lives has been less, the destruction is greater than the tsunami because it's affected a far larger area," she said.