Sun, Dec 09, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Cyclone Daman flattens often-hit island of Cikobia


A devastating cyclone flattened much of the tiny Fiji island of Cikobia yesterday, with most houses and vegetation destroyed, but its 69 villagers survived by hiding in caves, officials said.

Communications to the remote island on Fiji's northeastern border were knocked out in the storm but a brief radio telephone message confirmed all the villagers had been accounted for.

They were able to flee their homes before Cyclone Daman made a direct landing at about 3am and took shelter in caves on the island.

The full extent of the damage to Cikobia is unlikely to be known until today after initial attempts to conduct an aerial survey were aborted because of continuing poor weather.

Relief officials said a boat carrying supplies of medicine, food and tarpaulins would leave for the island late yesterday and another attempt to send in a helicopter would be made at first light today.

Initial reports indicated there had been casualties.

But a nurse on Cikobia was able to get a message to Labasa Hospital on Vanua Levu island to confirm there were no serious injuries, although houses and vegetation had been destroyed, the hospital superintendent, Ami Chand, said.

As Daman, packing hurricane-force winds of up to 260kph, bore down on Fiji on Friday, residents were forced to take shelter and tourists were evacuated from expensive island resorts.

The storm, a category four on a five-point scale, was initially heading for Vanua Levu, Fiji's second largest island, before veering away and making a direct hit on Cikobia.

Although the worst of the storm was considered to have passed by dawn yesterday, residents across Fiji were warned of possible flash-floods in low-lying areas and coastal flooding at high tide.

Fiji is frequently hit by tropical cyclones in the summer months and Cikobia in particular is considered a "cyclone magnet," suffering direct or near-direct hits of Cyclones Kina in 1993, Gavin in 1997 and Ami in 2003.

The Nadi weather office in Fiji said Daman was slowly moving out of the Fiji group towards Tonga and on its present path was not expected to affect any other islands in the Fiji group.

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