Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Aid flown to cyclone-battered Fiji


Aid arrives from New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand have begun airlifting aid to the Pacific island nation of Fiji, battered by a powerful cyclone which sparked sea surges.

The planes are taking relief supplies, including tarpaulins, and are also carrying out surveys of the damage.

A state of emergency was declared after Cyclone Tomas struck on Monday and Tuesday, battering the north and east.

The country's military leader described the damage as "overwhelming". So far only one death has been confirmed.

However, the director of the country's National Disaster Management Office, Pajiliai Dobui, said there were unconfirmed reports of "a few" deaths, AFP reports.

"Those who have experienced other cyclones say this is the longest and the strongest they have come across - and the most destructive," Mr Dobui said.

The full extent of the damage is still unknown because communication lines with the hardest-hit remote areas were cut off for days.


Australia's foreign ministry pledged $1m in aid and said the country would consider offering additional assistance after the damage had been assessed.

Some of the houses have blown away. A lot of trees have been uprooted, some of the roads have been blocked off
Julian Hennings on Koro island

Cyclone Tomas, a category four storm with winds of up to 205kmh (130mph) at its centre, is weakening as it moves away.

However, the sea surges have caused significant flooding and will probably take up to 36 hours to subside completely, according to Fiji's tropical cyclone centre.

A nationwide curfew was lifted on Wednesday.

The eastern Lau group of islands - which have a population of about 11,000 - bore the brunt of the storm. Officials say that half of the buildings there are believed to have been either destroyed or badly damaged.


"Some of the houses have blown away. A lot of trees have been uprooted, some of the roads have been blocked off because the waves have picked up rocks and coral and have dumped it on the road," Julian Hennings, a spokesman for the Dere Bay Resort the northern island of Koro, told the Associated Press news agency.

The country's second largest island, Vanua Levu, was also hard-hit.

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