BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Chinese Vietnamese Burmese Thai Indonesian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Asia-Pacific  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 1 January, 2003, 15:36 GMT
Survivors spotted on cyclone islands
Devastation on Tikopia
Geoff Mackley said it was the worst damage he had seen in 20 years
An Australian reconnaissance team has found buildings still standing on two Pacific islands struck by a cyclone.

Flight Lieutenant Jamie Riddell told the BBC he had also seen a number of villagers as his transport plane made several low passes over the islands of Tikopia and Anuta.

Most of the corrugated iron structures were still upright, however all the grass and leaf structures had been knocked down

Flight Lieutenant Jamie Riddell
But the crew of the Royal Australian Air Force plane was unable to judge how many casualties there were among the 2,000 inhabitants.

Contact is unlikely to be re-established with the islands before a boat with emergency supplies reaches them, probably on Friday.

A New Zealand journalist who made the first flight over the islands since they were hit by Cyclone Zoe said it would be a "miracle" if there was not a high death toll.

Geoff Mackley said it was the worst devastation he had seen in 20 years of covering natural disasters as a cameraman.

Fears for the communities prompted the Australian Government to order the reconnaissance flight over Tikopia and Anuta. The islands are part of the Solomon Islands.

Lieutenant Riddell told the BBC's World Today programme it was clear that both islands had been affected by the strong winds of Zoe, which was classified as the highest Category Five storm.

Stumps of palm trees on Tikopia
The cyclone denuded Tikopia of its vegetation
But there was evidence that people may have been able to find shelter from the winds of up to 350 kilometres per hour (220 mph).

"In the villages, most of the corrugated iron structures were still upright, however all the grass and leaf structures had been knocked down," he said.

It was impossible to judge how many casualties there may have been on the ground, as the crew were at a height of 150 metres (500 feet) and had only a few seconds to see each village.

But he said: "There were people moving around in the villages that we could see."

The crew took photographs of the islands which will be analysed in Australia to try to gauge the devastation and identify what aid is needed.

After his flight over Tikopia, Mackley wrote on his website: "The island is a scene of total devastation."

He added: "I will not speculate on the likely casualties or fatalities.

"If [the number] is not large, it will be a miracle."

Delayed aid

The Solomon Islands Government delayed sending help to the islands because it did not have the money to buy fuel for its patrol boats.

Cyclone Zoe - satellite photo
Meteorologists say the storm was strong enough to flatten buildings
Australia then donated 200,000 Solomon dollars (US$27,438) to allow the 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) mercy mission from the Solomon capital, Honiara.

But having seen footage of the devastation, the government decided to send a bigger ship with larger stocks of food to the islands.

Martin Karani, of the Solomon Islands disaster management office, said the boat would leave Honiara on Thursday morning. It is hoped it will reach the storm-hit islands by Friday night. Neither island has a airstrip so both are only accessible by sea.

A four-year ethnic war has left the former British protectorate virtually bankrupt.

Correspondents say that requesting help from Canberra will have been embarrassing for the Solomons.

Last week, the Solomon Islands Government was strongly criticised by the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, for misuse of public funds.

Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza had used Australian aid provided for civil servants' salaries to pay money demanded by police who had fired shots at his house.


Map showing Solomon Islands, including Tikopia and Anuta

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  Journalist Geoff Mackley
"It looked like ground zero of an atomic bomb"
  Flight Lieutenant Jamie Riddell
"There were people moving around in the villages we could see"
See also:

18 Sep 00 | Science/Nature
21 Dec 02 | Country profiles
13 Nov 02 | South Asia
07 Aug 01 | Media reports
25 May 01 | South Asia
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes