Storm 'devastates' Pacific island
- Winds between 300-350KM Per Hour (190-220MPH)
A powerful cyclone has destroyed much of a Pacific island, according
to a photographer who made the first flight over the disaster zone.
Geoff Mackley, a New Zealand television cameraman, said he had seen
only about 20 people on Tikopia. The fate of its estimated 2,000
residents is unclear.
Almost every building has been damaged... the sea has come through
some villages, burying them
after flying over islands
There has been no other contact with people on Tikopia and nearby
Anuta since they were hit by Cyclone Zoe on Saturday.
Australia is planning to send an air force plane to investigate what
has happened on the islands.
The government of the Solomon Islands, to which the islands belong,
delayed dispatching relief to the affected areas because it did not
have the money to buy fuel for its patrol boats.
Mr Mackley chartered a plane to get the first look at the damage left
by Cyclone Zoe.
"The island is a scene of total devastation," he wrote on his
I will not speculate on the likely casualties or fatalities, if [the
number] is not large it will be a miracle
"Every tree on the island has been blown over or shredded, the island
is completely denuded of vegetation.
"Almost every building has been damaged, a few remain intact, while
others have been shredded, and the sea has come through some
villages, burying them."
Mackley, who says he has spent 20 years covering natural disasters,
estimated Tikopia had been hit by winds of between 300 and 350
kilometres per hour (190-220 mph) when the storm made its direct hit.
"I will not speculate on the likely casualties or fatalities," he
"If [the number] is not large, it will be a miracle."
The Australian aircraft, scheduled to fly over the area on Wednesday,
will not be able to land as neither island has an airfield, but it
should be able to establish the extent of the damage.
The director of the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management
Office, Loti Yates, said Tikopia had probably been "flattened" by the
Meteorologists say the storm was strong enough to flatten buildings
Bob Davis, Australia's High Commissioner in the Solomon Islands'
capital, Honiara, said the islands' people had been warned of the
storm's approach and had experience of sheltering in the cyclone-
Australia has also donated 200,000 Solomon dollars (US$27,438) after
the Solomon Islands Government said it could not afford to send a
patrol boat to the storm-hit area.
A four-year ethnic war has left the former British protectorate
It will take the patrol boat three days to sail to the outlying
Correspondents say that requesting help from Canberra will have been
embarrassing for the Solomons.
Last week, the Solomon Islands Government was strongly criticised by
the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, for misuse of
Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza had used Australian aid provided for
civil servants' salaries to pay money demanded by police who had
fired shots at his house.