DOZENS of Australian teenagers who spent schoolies week in Fiji faced an anxious wait for flights home as tropical cyclone Evan headed towards the small Pacific nation on Sunday night.
The largest provider of schoolies celebrations in Fiji, Unleashed Travel, confirmed on Sunday night that all of its 500 schoolies had secured flights home. But it was not known how many of the further 180 registered schoolies who travelled to Fiji’s popular Mana Island and Plantation resorts were left to face the category four storm, which was expected to hit about 7pm.
Parents of children travelling with Unleashed expressed their thanks on Facebook, with Narelle Henney posting: ”Great news! Thanks so much for taking great care of our kids.”
The north of Fiji is expected to be the worst affected by Evan, with Fijian authorities predicting gale force winds gusting up to 100km/h, flooding in low-lying areas and damaging swells.
Conditions in Nadi, in the country’s west, where the students were waiting, were expected to be less severe. Authorities predicted heavy winds and thunderstorms.
Greg Venticinque, of Maitland, said his daughter Katrina, 18, had managed to get a seat on one of the last flights back to Australia, but that four friends had been told there were no seats left and they would have to sit out the storm.
”They’re going to have to batten down. It’s a bit scary for them,” Mr Venticinque said. ”They don’t know where they’re going to go. There’s not a lot of accommodation left in Nadi.”
Mr Venticinque said that his daughter was among about 200 students who had been evacuated from Mana Island off Fiji’s west coast on Saturday and had then crammed into hotel rooms in Nadi.
About 500 students from nearby Plantation Resort were also evacuated about the same time, he said.
Concerned parents had earlier bombarded Unleashed’s Facebook page with demands for information.
Some were angry that their children had reportedly been dumped from a Virgin flight for which they had tickets so that airline staff could be evacuated: ”11 kids left stranded so virgin staff can escape cyclone,” one mother wrote. ”Seats that they had booked a year ago.”
The children were among about 2700 other Australians who left today. About 2000 Australians remain and will be forced to wait out the cyclone.
Evan hit neighbouring island Samoa earlier in the week, which claimed the lives of four people.
with Alana Schetzer and Amy Corderoy
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