Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Tropical cyclone Mick kills three in Fiji


Aftermath of the Fiji cyclone

At least three people have died and several others are missing after Cyclone Mick ripped through Fiji's main island of Viti Levu.

The cyclone has cut power to much of the country, forced thousands into shelters, and caused severe flooding in the South Pacific nation, police say.

Mick, the region's first cyclone of the summer, is now causing gale-force winds over Fiji's Lau group of islands.

The cyclone is heading for Tonga, which has been placed on alert.

At its height on Monday night, Cyclone Mick battered Fiji with winds gusting up to 110km/h (70mph).

'Vicious' cyclone

Two people in Viti Levu were swept away in rivers, while a student died when a tree fell on him, police said.

The head of Fiji's Disaster Management Committee, Pajilai Dobui, said deaths and injuries had been kept low because most people had listened to warnings to move to emergency shelters.

Nearly 4,000 people evacuated their homes ahead of the storm. Most had returned home by late Tuesday.

"There's a lot of damage," said Unicef spokesman Tim Sutton from the Fijian capital Suva.

"Lots of trees down, power lines down everywhere, all the roads around Viti Levu are still closed with flooding and landslides," he told New Zealand's National Radio.

He described Mick as a "very vicious" cyclone that struck the archipelago six hours earlier than expected.

Much of the country was without electricity early on Tuesday due to the downed power lines.

Flights to the international airport at the tourist hub of Nadi on the island's west coast were disrupted but returned to normal later on Tuesday as the storm passed.

Disaster management officials say the toll could rise when they make contact with small outer-lying islands.

The storm has been downgraded to a category one cyclone as it heads south-east towards Tonga.

Fiji, an archipelago of more than 320 islands, was hit by tropical storms in January, which killed at least 10 people and caused the country's worst flooding in recent history.

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