14 Jan 2011

Boy suffers fatal heart attack in New Caledonia earthquake and cyclone

3:46 pm on 14 January 2011

An eleven-year-old boy has died of a heart attack on Lifou after the New Caledonian island was battered by cyclonic winds and a powerful earthquake last night.

Tropical Cyclone Vania with winds of up to 150 kilometres an hour is heading south west between the Loyalty Islands and the main island.

A spokesperson for the French High Commission Michele Lajus says the boy was dead on arrival at hospital after the double blow of a tsunami warning and a red cyclone alert.

"He was with his family, not in a rush, not in a hurry. It's probably regarding the (earthquake), you know, maybe he was afraid of it, we don't know but that's something we are really complaining about."

Michele Lajus says the lower quarter of the main island including the capital Noumea remains on red alert along with Mare and the Isle of Pines.

She says the army and police have helped evacuate 500 squatters to shelter in schools and gymnasiums, the airport is closed and people have been forced indoors as the storm intensified unexpectedly.

The authorities have issued a special notice forbidding people from venturing on to the streets of the capital.

Reports from Noumea say there have been intermittent power cuts due to fallen trees and high winds and the Air Austral flight from Reunion has been diverted to Sydney.