27 Feb 2004

NZ and foreign assistance on stand-by for cyclone-hit Vanuatu

9:38 pm on 27 February 2004

Latest reports from Vanuatu suggest houses, crops and the capital's wharf have suffered damage at the hands of Tropical Cyclone Ivy.

This afternoon officials from France, Australia and New Zealand met to discuss providing assistance to Vanuatu once the full extent of the cyclone damage becomes known.

Communication problems with contacting the outer islands means there's a shortage of information about how they've been affected.

There is concern about oil leaking from two fishing boats which sank in Vila harbour during the storm, which is now blocking container ships from getting into port.

Meanwhile, the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Marion Hobbs, says a French helicopter is on standby to fly from Noumea to survey the damage, to help assess what aid may be required.

"A C1-Thirty from Australia and an Orion from New Zealand are on stand-by. The preference would be to use the closer helicopters if at all possible. Telecommunications have been affected and the power has been affected, but the airport remains open. I think maybe the most serious thing I've heard of, other than the crop destruction, in terms of economics, is that two fishing boats in the port have turned turtle and I think there's a diesel spill in the harbour ."