SUVA, Fiji – The South Pacific island nation of Fiji has suffered overwhelming damage from a powerful cyclone that battered its shores for more than three days, the prime minister said today as relief operations were launched in the country’s northern regions.
Fiji sent naval patrol boats laden with supplies and support staff sailing for the northern islands that bore the full brunt of the storm, while Australian and New Zealand air force planes began airlifting emergency supplies to the island group.
Only one death has been reported, but the full extent of the damage has yet to be determined because communications to the hardest hit areas were cut off for days.
“It is evident that wherever (Cyclone) Tomas has struck, the damage has been overwhelming,” Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s prime minister and military chief, said today as the first reports began to roll in.
Cyclone Tomas, packing winds of up to 130 mph at its center and gusts of up to 175 mph, started hitting Fiji late Friday. It blasted through the northern Lau and Lomaiviti island groups and the northern coast of the second biggest island, Vanua Levu, before losing strength as it moved out to sea today.