Over 10,000 seek refuge in Fiji as cyclone heads south (2)

08:55, March 16, 2010      

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Tomas, considered to be one of the worst to hit the region in seven years, lashed northern parts of the Pacific island nation on Monday, producing winds of up to 270 km/h and is said to have generated waves up to seven meters high off Vanua Levu.

The director of Fiji's disaster management center, Pajiliai Dobui, said on Tuesday that communication has been lost on islands including Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Lau, and officials will not know the extent of the damage until Wednesday.

Fiji Meteorological Service said the cyclone is so fierce it had broken a strong sea wall and flooded villages on outlying islands to the east of Viti Levu.

The cyclone has claimed one life after a woman was swept out to sea on Friday. Police said the 31-year-old and her relatives were swept out at Namilamila Bay in Vanua Levu after a warning to stay away from the sea was issued.

The New Zealand Government said it was waiting for an assessment of the damage in Fiji before deciding what assistance to provide.prone to flooding.

Meanwhile, Cyclone Ului left a trail of devastation in the southern Solomon Islands, where winds reached 260 kmh, before being downgraded from a maximum class five hurricane.

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