14 Mar 2003

One dead as Cyclone Erica hits New Caledonia

4:06 pm on 14 March 2003

Cyclone Erica has caused at least one fatality in New Caledonia as the storm sweeps along the main island's west coast.

Officials say a worker was killed when he tried to secure a construction site in the face of strong winds.

At least 15 people are reported injured, three of them seriously.

Cyclone Erica, with gusts of up to 300 kilometres an hour, has caused widespread damage, tearing off roofs and uprooting trees.

The storm is now battering Noumea with sustained winds of 150 kilometres an hour hitting the bays from the west.

Roads have been cut by rising water levels and the power and phone networks have also been disrupted.

The speed of the storm has caught many by surprise and led to massive congestion as people tried to rush home before a maximum alert was declared.