16 Mar 2010

Coastlines battered as Cyclone Tomas heads south from Fiji groups

10:07 pm on 16 March 2010

Forecasters say Cyclone Tomas isunlikely to intensify further as it moves away from the Fiji group where it has caused havoc in many islands, particularly with huge sea swells.

A state of natural disaster has been declared in Fiji as emergency services struggle to contact the outer islands cut off by Cyclone Tomas over the past few days.

Late on Tuesday night, the Fiji Met service was tracking Tomas travelling southwards over the southern part of the Lau group at around twenty kilometres an hour.

Earlier, the category four system's winds of up to 270 kilometres an hour and high seas battered Vanua Levu - the second biggest of Fiji's island groups.

There are reports of at least one death caused in Fiji by Cyclone Tomas.

Around 17,000 peope have been sheltering in 240 evacuation centres around the country.

The Fiji's Disaster Management Office operations manager, Anthony Blake, says while many people stocked up on basic items since the weekend, food shortages could emerge quickly.

"The swells are still persisting in the Central Division, in Lomaiviti and Lau. Most of the coastal areas of Fiji have experienced strong sea surges and it has caused damage in some areas."

The Disaster Management Office in Suva so far has confirmed 50 homes as well as hospitals and other public buildings have been destroyed, but the final number is expected to be at least three times that.