(11:30 a.m. EST)--Cyclone Evan slammed into Fiji today, wrecking homes, bringing down trees and causing flooding across Fiji's main island.
The cyclone, which had slammed into Samoa, leaving at least four dead in its wake, is the strongest to hit Fiji in 20 years, according to a Radio Australia article.
Evan is a category 5 cyclone with winds exceeding 140 m.p.h. Cyclones are storms that are formed over the Indian Ocean or Southwestern Pacific Ocean.
It is believed to have been destroyed a number of homes in Fiji's second largest city, Lautoka, in western Viti Levu.
It has forced two cruise ship itinerary changes, to date.
Crystal Symphony is sailing in the South Pacific and had been scheduled to visit Lautoka, Fiji, December 16. Cruise Critic member artbcpa, who has been live blogging from Symphony, reports the Fiji stop has been canceled and replaced by a visit to the Bay of Island in New Zealand.
"We were all disappointed (but understanding) to hear that we are now going to miss our second port – Fiji," artbcpa wrote. "A cyclone (a/k/a hurricane) is heading straight for Fiji and safety has to be the number one priority. … "The Captain did announce that they have added a stop at Bay of Islands at the very top of North Island New Zealand and we will have an extra day in Auckland."
A spokeswoman for Crystal Cruises said:
"It is never our intention to alter our originally planned itineraries. However, the safety, security and comfort of our guests and crew is of paramount importance to us. Close monitoring of our upcoming ports and ship routes, including information from the Fiji Meteorological Service and the U.S. Embassy in Fiji, revealed that Cyclone Evan was on path toward Fiji this past weekend. With this in mind, we re-routed Crystal Symphony to avoid our previously scheduled call in Lautoka, Fiji on December 16. Instead, we changed course and headed directly to New Zealand where we added a call in the Bay of Island and a day in Auckland. We are fortunate that we can re-route our ships when circumstances beyond our control necessitate a changed course.
Our thoughts remain with those in the Pacific who are still facing the storm and its aftermath. We hope they all stay safe and have a speedy recovery."
Member Debsta wrote: “Carnival Spirit, which left yesterday, 16 December, has also had a complete itinerary change and will no longer head to Fiji for the very first time in it's Australian cruising season but instead to islands in the Vanuatu group. This change was made 2 days ago. Good on Carnival for having the foresight to organise the changes, rather than storm chase!
"Things are not looking good for Fiji this morning, particularly, as TC Evan has now had a slight easterly deviation with the eye now looking like having a dead hit on the main tourist areas including Mamanuca and Yasawa group of islands and Nadi and surrounds Nadi. It's reported as the worst cyclone to hit in a very long time with winds up to 230 km/h.
"Not good for the beautiful Fijian people."
A spokeswoman for Carnival said: "Unfortunately Carnival Spirit's December 16 itinerary had to change due to poor weather conditions in Fiji. The number one priority for Carnival Cruise Lines is the safety and well-being of their guests. For that reason, with the threat of Tropical Cyclone Evan off the coast of Fiji, it was decided to omit the ports of Suva, Port Denarau and Isle of Pines from this sailing, and instead visit the beautiful ports of Port Vila, Luganville and Wala, Vanuatu. Guests were notified of the change via email prior to embarkation whenever possible."
We also contacted P&O Cruises Australia who said they were monitoring the progress of the cyclone closely, but had as yet made no itinerary changes:
There are no P&O Australia ships in the vicinity of Cyclone Evan. Only one ship Pacific Dawn, which is currently enroute to Noumea, is due to call at Fiji ports in her current cruise. We are monitoring Evan's path closely and will make itinerary adjustments should they become necessary."
-- Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor; updated by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor