| More than 50 homes destroyed by cyclone in Fiji
| Tuesday, March 16, 2010
|SUVA, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Cyclone Tomas has destroyed at least 50 homes and 17,000 people have been evacuated to 240 shelters, Fiji Disaster Management Office said on Tuesday.
A 30-day state of natural disaster has been declared in the Northern and Eastern divisions as the tropical cyclone swept southwards.
The Fiji Disaster Management Office said the cyclone, the fourth day over Fiji, was now over central Lau, where people should expect increasing winds.
Operations manager Anthony Blake said communications are still difficult but at least 50 homes are known to have been destroyed and many more damaged.
Blake said the declaration of a state of disaster will free up resources for the affected areas, and police, army and other emergency services are being deployed.
There has been widespread flooding and some roads were closed. Power was also out in most parts of the Northern Division, he added.
The Fiji interim government has extended a nationwide curfew until Wednesday morning.
The Category 4 storm, one of the worst cyclones to hit the region in seven years, lashed northern parts of the Pacific island nation on Monday, producing winds of up to 270 km/h. It was reported to have generated waves up to seven meters high off Vanua Levu, damaging the island and cutting power.
Cyclone Tomas was believed to have claimed one life after a woman was swept out to sea on Friday. Police said the 31-year-old and her relatives were swept out at Namilamila Bay in Vanua Levu after a warning to stay away from the sea was issued.
By late on Tuesday afternoon the cyclone had passed its closest point to the capital Suva and was starting to move away from the region.
The full extent of the damage will not be known until communication is restored with the northern islands and until people can inspect their properties.
The Disaster Management Office said the Central and Western divisions escaped the brunt of the storm.
The New Zealand government has an Airforce Hercules on stand-by to provide assistance to Fiji. New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the plane will head to Fiji as soon as the weather conditions ease.
He added that Fiji has requested international assistance and New Zealand is working closely with its regional disaster relief partners, France and Australia, on how to best respond.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand said it has resumed normal service to Fiji's international airport at Nadi.
|posted by Moderator Londen time 12:51 PM