One of two tiny South Pacific islands cut off from the world for days by a massive cyclone has been left devastated, a New Zealand cameraman said after flying over it today.
Cyclone Zoe hit Tikopia and Anuta islands in the Solomon Islands with winds of up to 225 mph on Sunday. It wiped out communications and made initial damage assessment impossible. There was no word on possible casualties.
“Every tree on the island has been blown over or shredded, the island is completely denuded of vegetation,” Geoff Mackley said after flying over Tikopia.
“Almost every building has been damaged, a few remain intact, while others have been shredded, and the sea has come through some villages, burying them,” he added.
Mackley said about 20 people came down to a beach and watched his plane fly over.
“Some signalled us with sheets of white plastic, others just sat there,” he said. “I will not speculate on the likely casualties or fatalities, if it is not large it will be a miracle.”
There has been no contact with Anuta, which lies to the northeast of Tikopia.
More than 1,300 residents live on the two islands in remote Temotu Province. Neither have airstrips and it take days to reach them by boat from Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands.
Meanwhile an emergency shipment to the two islands was delayed today because the cash-strapped Solomon Islands national government could not pay for food and other supplies, officials said.
Loti Yates, head of the Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office, said the government had failed to pay shop owners for food, water containers, and other supplies, forcing the shipment to be delayed until tomorrow.
“Hard cash is hard to get ... unfortunately it is the financial situation faced by the government that is the problem,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Bob Davis, Australia’s high commissioner in Honiara, said the islanders – many of whom live in houses built of leaves and branches – had advance warning Zoe was headed their way.
“We have had some indications that they did take precautions and shelter beforehand,” Davis said yesterday.
The Solomon Islands is a chain of 80 equatorial islands 1,400 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia.
The country’s economy is close to collapse following years of fighting between rival islanders that left dozens dead and caused an exodus of foreign investors.