New Zealand Air Force sending plane to check Tonga cyclone damage

Originally published
Wellington, New Zealand (dpa) - New Zealand is sending an air force plane on a reconnaissance flight to see how much damage Cyclone Waka did to the South Pacific island kingdom of Tonga, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The cyclone, which brought 250-kilometre-an-hour gusts and 6-metre-high seas, battered Tonga's northern islands Monday, destroying homes and crops and ripping down power and telephone lines, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Communications were cut off to tourist resorts on the island group of Vava'u, where about 15,000 people live, most in the town of Neiafu.

Shane Walker, of the Auckland-based Sunsail yacht-chartering business, which has yachts in Neiafu, said fellow New Zealander Mark Managh told him by satellite phone that there was not a single tree standing.

"It is like the island has been sandblasted," he told the Herald. "It is that devastating.

"The few houses that haven't been demolished have lost their roofs. There are power lines lying all over the streets. The town is a complete mess."

The New Zealand government's duty minister, Trevor Mallard, told Radio New Zealand that communications to the islands were not good and an air force Orion maritime surveillance plane would assess the level of damage to see what help Tonga needed.

dpa db ls

Copyright (c) 2002 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 01/01/2002 17:12:33

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Copyright (c) dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH