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Fiji resorts escape TC Evan’s fury

Fiji’s hotels have miraculously survived the wrath of Tropical Cyclone Evan this week, with only minor damage to property and no injuries reported.

TC Evan – a Category 4 cyclone which packed sustained winds over 110 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 270 kilometres per hour for up to 12 hours on Monday December 17 – passed along the west coast of Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, home to the country’s largest accommodation properties.

Just days before, TC Evan ripped through Samoa, killing at least four people and wreaking havoc in the capital Apia.

HM yesterday (Dec 19) spoke to 15 properties in the country and all are almost back to normal operations as the clean-up continues across the South Pacific nation.

The major concern now for accommodation properties is the welfare of staff, with reports that 8400 people are currently seeking shelter at 147 evacuation centres around the country, according to The Fiji Times.

Accor Asia-Pacific confirmed to HM it is today (Dec 19) flying executives to Fiji to assist in returning hotels to operational normality and assisting affected staff.

“A human resources representative is working on collating information on safety and wellbeing of our staff and their families,” an Accor spokesperson told HM.

“Unfortunately due to the mobile networks being down this is challenging, however, an attempt was expected to be made yesterday afternoon (Dec 18) to send a member of management from each hotel to the villages we know we have staff to gain as much information as possible.”

Accor’s four Fijian hotels – Mercure Nadi, Novotel Nadi, Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa (Denarau Island) and Mercure Suva – have returned mostly to normal operations, a similar report at a further 11 hotels across the nation contacted by HM.

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group’s Regional General Manager, Peter Tudehope, said the company’s Radisson Blu Resort Fiji on Denarau Island “survived the cyclone extremely well”.

He told HM the only significant damage at the property was to the sail shade which sits above the hotel pool.

“A few trees are also down around the resort,” he said.

Tudehope said at the time of the cyclone, the property was operating at 95 per cent occupancy after taking in guests that had been evacuated from resorts in the nearby Mamanuca Islands.

During the storm, Tudehope said staff “served meals to guests in their rooms” and “amazingly we only lost internet for 20 minutes during the storm, would you believe?”

On Tuesday morning, he said guests were out in force, helping staff clean-up the resort by sweeping debris and moving trees.

“We have nothing but admiration for the staff and guests,” Tudehope said.

Over in the Mamanuca Islands, a group in the direct path of the storm, hotels are reporting it is now “business as usual”.

“All staff and guests are safe and sound,” a spokesperson from 8Hotels told HM. “Despite being directly in the path of the cyclone, Tokoriki Island Resort has fortunately escaped any structural damage.

“All services (including water, power and internet) are up and running,

“The severe winds have caused some damage to the tropical gardens, including the loss of some large trees, and this is currently being cleaned up.

“Yesterday (Dec 18) and today (Dec 19) have been beautiful days in Fiji and the hotel is operating as per usual. Guests have resumed their positions beside the pool and everyone spirits are high.

“In terms of services, its business as usual at the resort,” the spokesperson said.

Down on the Coral Coast, hotels only reported minor damage.

At Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa, a number of food and beverage outlets were temporarily closed and outdoor sports and recreation options were reduced, but “we expect to resume normal operations today (Dec 19)”, said the property’s General Manager, Michael Monks.

In addition to adding indoor activities, the resort set up an information centre onsite to update guests on what was happening with the weather, the latest flight information and the Resort’s ongoing activities.

“During this time, our single most important focus was the safety and security of all our guests and staff,” Monks said.

As resorts return to normal, the Australian and New Zealand Governments continue to offer aid to the people of Fiji and Samoa.

New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully this morning (Dec 19) announced provision of a further NZD$2 million each for Samoa and Fiji to assist the next stage of recovery from Cyclone Evan.

The government has already provided NZD$600,000 to Samoa and NZD$400,000 to Fiji.

McCully also announced that the P3 Orion aircraft that assisted Samoa with aerial assessment work in the early part of the week was moved to Fiji late yesterday to undertake similar work.

“While both countries continue to take stock of the cyclone damage it is clear that the cost is going to be substantial,” McCully said.

“For this reason we have allocated a further NZD$2 million to each country to ensure there are no resource constraints over the coming days. In each case the funding will be administered by the Ministry in consultation with relevant agencies.”

At this stage it is not known what damage was sustained to properties in the Yasawa group of Islands to the north of Viti Levu, that lay closest to the eye of TC Evan, with communication still down.

For a full report on how Fiji’s leading hotels fared during TC Evan, click here.

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