14 feared dead in Fiji as cyclone toll rises

SUVA, Fiji (Radio Fiji/RNZI, Jan. 16) - Fears are growing in Fiji for the safety of people still missing after Cyclone Ami lashed the country's northern and eastern islands on Tuesday.

Some 14 people were believed dead, including a two year-old child, with unconfirmed numbers missing as rescue efforts continued on Thursday. The infant was found in Savusavu.

Eight people were missing from Korotari settlement near Labasa and there was no sign of seven men who had not returned from a fishing trip.

But two children earlier feared dead in a collapsed church on Druadrua Island have been found alive.

The children were protected from serious injury by the roof which fell intact over them.

The town of Labasa has been devastated by the cyclone and flooding.

One of the first people to fly out of Labasa, Australian national Dharmendra Singh, told Radio Fiji the town is in critical condition.

"There is no electricity, no water. No telephone linkage, no mobile phones and it is extremely bad. Water has receded and people are just cleaning up the mud. It was the worst experience of my life. I was expecting the house to be lifted off the ground. All corrugated iron and stuff and trees and coconut palms were just crashing around. There were a huge number of houses which were damaged."

Fiji Electricity Authority estimates that it will take at least two weeks to restore power supplies.

Radio Fiji says the water and power cuts have led to fears that drinking water could be contaminated and lead to serious disease.