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Trouble in Tikopia

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Fate of Pacific islanders unknown after cyclone
Sunday, December 29, 2002 Posted: 10:28 PM EST (0328 GMT)

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Reuters) -- The fate of 1,000 South Pacific islanders on some of the planet's most isolated islands was unknown on Monday, a day after a massive cyclone with winds above 300 km an hour (186 mph) swept over the specks of land.

Cyclone Zoe hit the Solomon Islands' Tikopia, Fataka and Anuta islands on Sunday morning, with the eye of the cyclone sweeping over Tikopia.

Officials in Honiara said on Monday that the islands, some 1,000 km (600 miles) southeast of the capital, were so isolated that no reports of damage had yet reached the capital.

Radio communication is the normal means of contact with the islands but it was thought the few radio antennae in the area had been knocked down by cyclonic winds.

A Solomons patrol boat was being refuelled and would set sail for the islands later on Monday to assess the damage, the Australian High Commission said.

Tikopia, Anuta and Fataka islands are volcanic islands in the Santa Cruz group of the sprawling Solomons archipelago.

Tikopia, the biggest of the three, is an oval-shaped island measuring just five km (three miles) at its longest point.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology's Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre said Cyclone Zoe, still rated a category four tropical storm, had moved east and now looked like heading between the island nations of Vanuatu and Fiji.


Check out the gallery. All trees were blown over or "shredded"




Islanders Hid in Mountains to Flee Fierce Cyclone

HONIARA, Solomon Islands, Jan. 3 — All the inhabitants of a South Pacific island battered by a fierce cyclone have survived by fleeing to mountain shelters, a photographer who has landed on the island said today.

The photographer, Geoff Mackley, said it appeared that no one had died on Tikopia, where it had been feared that hundreds might have been killed when the cyclone tore through the remote eastern Solomon Islands on Sunday morning.

Tikopia is the biggest of the affected islands, which are home to about 3,700 people. The situation on Anuta and other islands hammered by the cyclone was unclear.

Mr. Mackley told The Weekend Australian after landing on Tikopia by helicopter: "The whole way there, I thought I would see hundreds of dead and festering bodies. But instead, we were just overwhelmed with people running toward the plane. Every single person was alive and there they were, standing in front of me."

The reports were the first from the region since the cyclone hit with 190 m.p.h. winds. Radio links are down on the islands, and there are no airstrips.

Relief supplies were finally on their way to the islands today, and the Solomon Islands government declared the islands of Tikopia and Anuta disaster areas. The government made the declaration after analyzing aerial photographs taken from a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft that showed two villages of about 700 people total on Tikopia had been washed away by the storm.

Tikopia islanders, who live in about 21 villages, told Mr. Mackley that their homes and crops had been destroyed and they would not be able to grow all the food they needed for at least the next three years.

[ Edited by: Tiki Chris on 2003-01-04 18:04 ]

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