8 Jan 2004

Official on Niue says speed of cyclone caught people out

11:31 am on 8 January 2004

A Niuean official who was on the tiny Pacific Island when Cyclone Heta struck says people were caught out by speed at the which the storm arrived.

Aid efforts are swinging into action following the cyclone, which killed one person, injured at least two others, levelled buildings and cut telephone links to the outside world.

The secretary for the Niuean government, Sisilia Talagi describes the damage caused by Cyclone Heta as unbelievable and traumatic, adding at least 20 families have lost everything.

"The houses on the coastal side were just wiped out, destroyed, there is only basements standing. The rubble was pushed to the other side of the road and at the same time destroyed houses on the other side of the road."

Sisilia Talagi says although three aid flights carrying emergency equipment have arrived, more help will be needed.

She says strong winds began battering the island hours earlier than forecasters predicted.

What we were planning to do at about one, two o'clock couldn't be done and that was why our telecommunication dish was blown off, the technicians just couldn't get to it in time to pack it, so that is why our communication is very limited now.