PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea — Cyclone Namu slammed into Guadalcanal and the rest of the Solomon Islands with winds up to 140 m.p.h., causing widespread destruction that left thousands of villagers homeless and as many as 50 missing, reports said today.
Five children and three policemen were among the 50 reported missing after Namu hit the South Pacific island group Monday, according to news reports reaching the Papua New Guinea capital of Port Moresby, 870 miles west of the Solomons' capital of Honiara, on Guadalcanal island.
No official casualty figures have been released, but one rescue worker in Honiara said it is almost certain several lives had been lost, including people washed out to sea.
Officials said it would take days before reliable casualty figures are available because of weather and communications problems in the Solomon Islands, a former British protectorate with a population of 300,000 scattered among 10 main islands.
Floodwaters left the airport at Honiara under water, forcing two Australian air force Hercules transport aircraft carrying helicopters, rescue equipment and emergency supplies to return to Australia.
An air force spokesman said the aircraft would attempt another landing at Honiara on Wednesday.