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Cyclone Destroys Villages in S. Pacific

The fate of 3,700 people on two of the Solomon Islands is still unknown four days after Zoe pounded the area with winds up to 225 mph.

January 03, 2003|From Times Wire Services

HONIARA, Solomon Islands — A cyclone that hit two remote South Pacific islands Sunday washed away several villages but there was no word on the fate of hundreds of people who live there, officials in the Solomon Islands said Thursday.

There has been no contact with Tikopia and Anuta islands, home to 3,700 people, since Cyclone Zoe pounded the area with winds up to 225 mph. An Australian survey plane flying 1,500 feet above the two volcanic outcrops brought back the first images of the damage Thursday, but communications have been cut and there are no landing strips on the islands.

The plane's crew said that the islands were badly damaged but that many residents were seen fishing and going about their business.

Martin Karani of the Solomons' National Disaster Management Office, however, said the photos showed the villages of Ravenga and Namo on Tikopia had been washed away.

"All that is left is the bare trunk of coconut trees with the sand halfway up the trees. There's not even any sign of the houses left," Karani said in the Solomons' capital, Honiara.

"We cannot say at this stage what happened to the 700 people living in both villages," Karani added.

Emergency supplies have yet to reach what are some of the world's most isolated islands. A boat with food, water and medical supplies was delayed for days leaving Honiara because the government didn't have money to pay for it. After donations from Australia and New Zealand, the boat left Thursday night.

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