7 Jan 2004

Cyclone Heta claims its first casualty

1:26 pm on 7 January 2004

Tropical Cyclone Heta has claimed its first victim on Niue.

Heta which has left a path of destruction in Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga since forming in the Pacific last weekend, has unleashed its full force on the tiny island of Niue.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Brad Tattersfield, says he's been in contact with New Zealand's High Commissioner to Niue, Sandra Lee Vercoe, who he says describes the situation as very grim.

"The main town of Alofi has been flattened she says there has been at least one death and several injuries caused by the cyclone. Many buildings have been damaged including the hospital, a fuel dump and a satellite dish used as telephone communication. Power and phone links are down, many roads are closed and crops are badly damaged so it's a pretty grim scene at the moment."

Mr Tattersfield, says arrangements are being made to send emergency assistance up to Niue as soon as possible.