| Cyclone devastates Fiji
| Wednesday, March 17, 2010
|SUVA — About half the homes and buildings in Fiji’s eastern Lau group of island are believed to have been destroyed or badly damaged by this week’s destructive cyclone, a disaster official said Wednesday.
"We have received preliminary unconfirmed reports of extensive damage in the Lau group," Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office operations officer Anthony Blake told AFP.
"We have got reports of at least two villages totally destroyed," he said.
There have been no confirmed reports of deaths from Lau and residents of at least one of the destroyed villages were able to shelter in caves, Blake said.
"We are hoping there is no loss of life and all the villagers are okay and we will get emergency supplies to them."
According to "our estimates based on the worst-case scenarios of the track of the cyclone and what has happened in the north, we suspect at least 50 percent of the Lau group has been severely damaged."
The Lau group, a string of islands running north to south along Fiji’s eastern edge, is home to about 11,000 people who were close to the centre of the category four cyclone.
Cyclone Tomas devastated swathes of the north and east of Fiji as it passed over the islands on Monday and Tuesday.
The west of the second largest island Vanua Levu and the entire main island of Viti Levu were spared the worst of the cyclone, with average wind speeds of 175 kilometres an hour and huge waves caused by storm surges.
Blake said the scale of the destruction and any further casualties would become clearer Thursday as the results of the first surveys were received.
Only one death has so far been confirmed — a woman who drowned in rough seas as the cyclone approached at the weekend — but another emergency official said Tuesday there had been unconfirmed reports of "a few" deaths.
By Wednesday, fewer than 9,000 people remained in evacuation centres throughout the country, down from around 17,000 on Tuesday, Blake said.
|posted by Moderator Londen time 1:35 PM