29 Jan 2008

Cyclone Gene death toll rises in Fiji

9:51 pm on 29 January 2008

The death toll in Fiji from Tropical Cyclone Gene's path over it is reported to be as high as six.

Power and water outages have been experienced widely, and people are going without basic services in parts of both Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Local media reports have indicated that Fiji's Disaster Management Office is yet to assess the total damage but half the country's population may have been affected.

The cyclone's destructive winds, gusting to 150 kilometres an hour, have destroyed buildings in some parts.

The worst affected areas appear to be Labasa, in Vanua Levu's north, and other communities in the island's southwest.

The Fiji Electricity Authority said two linesmen working for a power company were killed when they were hit by falling high-capacity lines near Lautoka.

Police said another person drowned in a swollen creek in the capital Suva, another died when a candle used during the power outage set fire to a house.

A woman died in a Suva hospital of injuries sustained during the storm, and another victim was killed while fishing in the west of Veti Levu.

Fiji's Meteorological Service says Cyclone Gene is likely to intensify as it moves towards Vanuatu over the next 36 hours.

Fiji is expected to experience more strong winds and heavy rain from the system.