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Hurricane lingers in Samoan islands; Hawaiian cancels Pago Pago flight

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    This color-enhanced image of Tropical Cyclone Evan, taken today shows the storm center a bit northeast of the island of Upolu, Samoa. (Samoa Meteorological Division/MTSAT)

Hawaiian Airlines canceled flights to and from American Samoa that were scheduled for today because of Tropical Cyclone Evan.

The storm has left at least two children dead in Samoa and widespread damage around the capital of Apia, according to news reports from Australia and New Zealand.

Winds and rains of Evan also swept over Pago Pago in neighboring American Samoa.

Schools are closed and people in American Samoa were preparing in case the storm comes ashore there, but so far there have not been reports of major damage, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Parts of American Samoa are under a gale warning, high surf warning and flash flood watch.

Hawaiian has scheduled another flight to Pago Pago to depart Honolulu at 4:40 p.m. Friday and 11:20 p.m. from Pago Pago.

Ticketed passengers will be permitted to change their reservation without charge provided the changes are made no later than December 24, 2012.  

The Samoan Disaster Management Office (DMO) said the two victims in Samoa were apparently children drowned in a low-lying area of Apia, the website said.

The DMO said the storm surge was at 12 to 15 feet Wednesday.

The cyclone destroyed homes and crops, flooded rivers, toppled trees and power lines and cut roads in Samoa, ABC reported. The Apia airport is closed.

The storm is said to be the worst to hit Samoa in 20 years. The island of Upolu remains under a hurricane warning and watch is posted for Savaii. A flood advisory remains in effect for low-lying areas.

The cyclone had been forecast to head south towards Fiji, but Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment says it could turn around and return in the next 24 hours.

"At the moment we are coping. But in calling for international assistance during the cyclone, it will be difficult to get help into the country because airports are closed and so are the ports," Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s Taulealea Usunai told the ABC.

Evan made landfall on the island of Upolu, home to Apia Wednesday afternoon Hawaii time. Highest sustained winds were more than 90 mph, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC).

The JTWC warned that the storm would continue to strengthen while remaining over or near the Samoan islands through at least tonight. 

One of the businesses that fell victim to Evan’s wrath was the popular Aggie Greys Hotel, which suffered heavy flood damage, said. The Vaisigano River apparently swept through much of the hotel, ravaging its well-known restaurant.

Evan is the first named cyclone of the South Pacific summer cyclone season.

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