Cyclone Evan Impact on Samoa’s Economy as Bad as 2009 Tsunami

Samoa’s economy will be as hard hit by the passage of Cyclone Evan earlier this month as it was by a 2009 tsunami that destroyed 20 villages and killed 143 people, an International Monetary Fund official said.

The category 4 storm, which hit the Pacific island country Dec. 13, collapsed houses and tourist facilities, washed away roads and bridges, and damaged crops and water and electricity infrastructure, the IMF’s resident adviser Yangzheg Yang said in an interview yesterday on Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The effect would be worse than that of the 2009 tsunami, he said. That event, sparked by an magnitude 8.1 earthquake about 190 kilometers (118 miles) south of the country’s capital, Apia, displaced 3,500 people and caused damage estimated at $147 million, equivalent to more than a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product.

“It’s pretty horrific,” Yang said. “The impact of this cyclone is probably just as great, if not bigger, than the damage caused by the tsunami.”

Cyclone Evan brought winds as high as 270 kilometers an hour and four-meter storm surges and left more than 8,000 sheltering in emergency centers in Samoa, Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in a Dec. 18 statement announcing a A$1 million ($1 million) aid commitment.

In neighboring Fiji, at least 13,900 people sought shelter in evacuation centers, according to a statement from Australia’s foreign aid agency on Dec. 20.

Samoa, an archipelago of two large islands and several islets about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, is home to about 194,000 people, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.

It lies just to the west of the U.S. territory of American Samoa, which was largely spared by the cyclone according to a National Weather Service bulletin.

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