Just 18 months into her retirement, former Whangarei law courts deputy registrar Karen Weir is enduring the worst natural disaster in her life back home in Samoa.
She is among thousands in the Samoan capital of Apia without power and water as Cyclone Evan left three dead, including two children, and brought widespread flash floods, blocked roads, damaged buildings and forced evacuations.
The cyclone was expected to intensify and hit Apia for a second time, but authorities said that did not appear likely.
Evan was expected to move west-southwest at about 39 miles north-northwest of Apia last night and forecasters said it could be heading towards Samoa's biggest island of Savai'i and then northern Tonga, the French islands of Wallis and Futuna and Fiji.
Ms Weir, who left Whangarei around mid-2010 to live in Apia, said locals had been told that power could be cut off for between two and three weeks.
"There's a lot of flooding, the power lines and trees are down, there's no fresh water and the town is closed. It's pretty devastating," Ms Weir said.
She lives in Siusega, a 15-minute drive from Apia, where rain and winds picked up on Thursday evening, but the situation improved from about midday yesterday.
"Hopefully it improves. We ask for prayers from the people of New Zealand during this difficult time. This is the worst that I've ever seen."
Ms Weir lives by herself but is currently host to her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren visiting from Gisborne.
They were supposed to leave Samoa on Thursday but their flight was cancelled.
"I am scared for my children, although it's still pretty safe. It's just a very uncomfortable situation to be in," she said.
Anna Marshall, a Samoan who lives in Whangarei, finally got through to family about lunchtime yesterday after trying for hours on her landline.
Her family farm in Alafua borders a river and flooding meant food such as taro and breadfruit have been damaged.
Cyclone Val in the early 1990s blew her house roof away but Ms Marshall said that was unlikely to happen this time. "It doesn't appear to be too bad, although I am concerned about those living near the river who could be affected by flooding," said the Queen's Service Medal recipient, who originally left Samoa 54 years ago.
About 100 Kiwis are reportedly holidaying in Samoa but it's not clear whether the number includes any Northlanders.
The cyclone followed another natural disaster, a deadly tsunami, more than three years ago that claimed 60 lives and left many more injured.
A dozen Northlanders caught in the tsunami were evacuated twice from their hotels.