Wednesday, March 17, 2010

State of disaster declared in cyclone-hit Fiji

Terra Daily via Agence France-Presse: Fiji's government Tuesday declared a state of disaster as the first deaths were reported in the cyclone-ravaged Pacific nation where 17,000 people have fled to evacuation centres. The leader of the military regime, Voreqe Bainimarama, said although the full extent of the damage from Cyclone Tomas was yet to be determined, it had been devastating.

"It is evident that wherever Tomas has struck, the damage has been overwhelming," he said in a statement. There were unconfirmed reports of "a few" deaths in the devastating category four cyclone -- said to be the worst in living memory -- which struck Fiji's eastern Lau group of islands Tuesday, National Disaster Management Office director Pajiliai Dobui said.

"I think some lost their lives but it is just a few," Dobui told AFP. "What we have been hearing from some of the islands is the devastation and the wind and the storm surges were too much," Dobui said.

Dobui said he did not have further information on the reported fatalities, which required confirmation by police, but reports from islands suggested Cyclone Tomas was the worst in living memory. "Those who have experienced other cyclones say this is the longest and the strongest they have come across -- and the most destructive," he said.

The only confirmed death from the cyclone was of a woman who drowned in rough seas off the second-largest island of Vanua Levu as the cyclone approached at the weekend. Cyclone Tomas cut a swathe of destruction through the north and east as winds averaging 175 kilometres (109 miles) an hour lashed the Pacific island group for a second day Tuesday….

Although it had less powerful winds, Tomas stretched across a larger area. Like Tomas, Ului had been moving westward over an area of high sea surface temperatures. This storm was expected to continue moving westward before turning south and eventually weakening. Shot March 16, 2010

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