16 Mar 2010

Natural disaster declared in Fiji after Cyclone Tomas

6:51 pm on 16 March 2010

A state of natural disaster has been declared in the northern and eastern divisions of Fiji as Cyclone Tomas sweeps southwards.

The Fiji Disaster Management Office says the cyclone is now over central Lau where people should expect increasing winds.

Its operations manager, Anthony Blake, says communications are still difficult but at least 50 homes are known to have been destroyed and many more damaged.

More than 17-thousand people are sheltering in evacuation centres as winds averaging 150 kilometres an hour batter the country's many islands.

He says most of the damage appears to have occurred in the Northern Division and some parts of the Eastern Division so far

"At the moment we are still collating damage reports. Initial reports indicate there have been damage to hospitals, health facilities, police facilities, schools and homes."

Anthony Blake says power is out in most parts of the northern division, which is affecting the water and sewerage systems.

He says the declaration of a state of disaster will free up resources for the affected areas, and police, army, and other emergency services are being deployed.

He says there has been widespread flooding and some roads are closed.