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|The island of Tavarua, home to famed left-handers Cloudbreak and Restaurants, under much bluer skies. Cyclone Evan was the most powerful storm in recorded history to hit the island.|
On Dec. 14, Cyclone Evan moved across Samoa as a Category 2 cyclone, leaving at least five people dead, 12 missing, and a swathe of destruction in its wake. In the following days the storm then headed towards Fiji and strengthened. Growing to a powerful Category 4 storm, NOAA reports that it is the strongest cyclone on record for Fiji.
Skirting the top of Fiji's northern island, Vanua Levu, Evan then turned south and paralleled the west coast, the eye just barely offshore. The Yasawa Islands received a direct hit, as well as other smaller islands. The storm then continued south along Viti Levu's west coast, where the main cities of Lautoka, Nadi and Suva are located.
Of those smaller islands off the west coast of Viti Levu, Tavarua and Namotu are two of the most popular surf camps in the world. The eye of the cyclone went right over them, with winds peaking at 135 mph. Early concerns were for the safety of management and the small crews who stayed on the islands.
At this time reports are that Tavarua's staff is safe. Early reports from the coconut wireless are that it faired well and is only in need of a major cleanup.
"Really happy to report that everyone on island is safe and for the most part Tavarua will be open for business after a major cleanup. We are grateful and still concerned about the surrounding villages and their families. Thanks for all the well wishes. We sincerely appreciate it!! Vinaka vakalevu!," reads a Facebook post from Jamie Isbell.
"All safe. Denarau completely trashed. No marina. Super yatch sunk. Boats on rocks," read a brief email from longtime Tavarua surfer Brett Whittaker.
Namotu is less protected from these types of cyclones, and it was feared they would be more impacted, but all appears okay at this time.
"Safe & Well on the Island, Mega Clean up has begun !! intermittent phone & internet connection," reads a Dec. 18 tweet from @Namotu_Island.
"Ok in eye of storm, place is a disaster zone but no major structual damage yet. New right off the point that looks like Snapper. Lost one generater hanging in on the other," read a Namotu Facebook post during the storm.
Early reports from the Fiji government have estimated damages to be upwards of $125 million, and New Zealand and Australia have been quick to offer help. At this time, the government has declared a State of Natural Disaster for the northern and western parts of Fiji, which will be in effect for 15 days.
Tavarua Island was first opened in the early to mid-'80s, and has been one of the most popular surf destinations in the world, being the model that most every other surf camp in the world has copied. It was the site of the 2011 Volcom Fiji Pro. More as it becomes available.