Disaster officials in Samoa say the damage from Cyclone Evan is worse than that caused by the tsunami in 2009.

Most of the country is without power and more than 4500 people are homeless.

Flood waters still surround villages and homes along the southern coast. The situation there is desperate, the damage extensive.

Matautu Tai Lefuga resident Shirley Sera spent the day sifting through what remained of her home.

“This is where I live and thank God I was able to stay alive with my daughter and my family, says Ms Sera.

Disaster officials say on the south coast alone more than 1000 homes have been destroyed.

“It [the 2009 tsunami] was focussed on the southern coast of Upolu, but for this one the whole country is affected, says Filomena Nelson, response coordinator for the tsunami.

Apia and the surrounding areas didn’t fare any better, and it’s not surprising with the amount of water that rolled through there four days ago. The people were prepared for the wind but not for the devastation. It’s left thousands in evacuation centres.

The building of the Ministry of Health has been transformed into a shelter for those in need.

“It’s very sad, says Health Ministry assistant chief executive Sosefina Talauta-Tualaulelei. “I think the emotional part hasn’t really hit us yet, but we are just glad we are able to help.

Staff say they are dealing with an increase in cases of people with respiratory illnesses.

“It’s a very serious health situation, in fact worse than the tsunami, says Health Ministry director general Talanutina Tupunatagi Toelupe. “With this situation these are people who are displaced and their homes are no longer there.

Samoa has endured many disasters, but as always the people remain resilient. But they know this won’t be a quick fix. A search for the missing is ongoing, with the death toll likely to rise to 12.

Early this afternoon an Air Force Orion arrived in Samoa from New Zealand. Five of those who are still missing and presumed dead were out in Apia Harbour on two fishing boats when the cyclone hit. The first job for the Air Force crew will be to search for the bodies of those victims.

2012 MediaWorks TV