New Caledonia assesses the damage after two killed in cyclone

from Agence France-Presse
Published on 15 Mar 2003
NOUMEA, March 15 (AFP) - New Caledonia began Saturday to assess the massive damage caused when powerful cyclone Erica lashed the French Pacific territory, killing two people.

Nine people were also seriously hurt in the storm Friday and 112 others slightly injured, authorities said.

Meanwhile a fishing boat with five sailors that had been missing since Thursday and was at sea when the cyclone hit reached the northern port of Koumac safely.

Erica, packing winds of up to 150 kilometres (100 miles) per hour, forced 892 families, including more than 3,500 people, to leave their homes, authorities said.

Most of them were accommodated by relatives or friends but 102 families were being housed in temporary accommodation Saturday.

Extensive damage was caused to telephone and electricity networks and was expected to take several weeks to repair.

In the capital Noumea, 20 percent of subscribers were still without electricity Saturday. This rose to 60 percent on the west coast of the main island, most affected by the cyclone.

High Commissioner Daniel Constantin and president of the local government, Pierre Frogier, on Saturday toured areas affected by the cyclone.

Constantin said: "It is all economic activity that is suffering today and which needs to be quickly restored."

The central government of France has released an initial urgent grant worth 300,000 euros (dollars) to help the Pacific territory to recover.

hl/br/th NCaledonia-weather AFP

Copyright (c) 2003 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 03/15/2003 20:44:13

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