14 Mar 2003

Cyclone Erica hits northern New Caledonia, Eseta strikes Tonga

11:55 am on 14 March 2003

Tropical Cyclone Erica has hit the north of New Caledonia's main island with winds of more than 300 kilometres an hour, cutting phone lines to the area.

Reports say power has also been cut and trees uprooted.

There are no reports of casualties.

Cyclone Erica is expected to move along the western coast towards Noumea where cyclone alerts are expected to be raised to highest levels.

Schools in the territory are closed and airlines grounded.

Yesterday, Cyclone Eseta hit the small Tongan island of Eua, near the main island of Tongatapu

Tonga's Acting Director of the Disaster Management Office, Maliu Takai,

says the full extent of damage on the island is not yet known

He says winds of around 240 kilometres an hour have destroyed fruit-bearing trees, such as breadfruit and bananas, as well as the food crop, kasa.

Mr Takai says they should know by midday today how much damage has been sustained on the island

Cyclone Eseta is now heading out to sea.