MANIHIKI DEATH TOLL RISES TO SIX WITH 13 STILL MISSING; ONE CONFIRMED

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DEAD AND EIGHT MISSING IN FRENCH POLYNESIA

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (November 6, 1997 - PACNEWS)---The death toll from Cyclone Martin, which devastated Manihiki atoll in the northern Cook Islands last weekend, is now six. Thirteen people are still missing.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion plane left Auckland early this morning to continue the search of the Manihiki ocean area for a boat sighted Tuesday, raising hopes of more survivors, Radio Cook Islands reports.

The four people who drifted into Rakahanga atoll Tuesday are in a fair condition after being treated at Rakahanga clinic. They later were flown to the capital island of Rarotonga.

Some Manihiki evacuees now in Rarotonga, whose homes are either gone or nothing but rubble, are contemplating not returning.

It is now expected that about half of Manihiki's population of approximately 700 will be flown to Rarotonga this week.

Meanwhile, more relief supplies from the people of Aitutaki were picked up by a Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules Tuesday to be dropped off at Pukapuka and Manihiki.

So far, 14 tons of supplies from Rarotonga have been flown to the two atolls to ease serious food and supply shortages.

Elsewhere, latest reports from French Polynesia say Cyclone Martin has killed one person and left eight persons from the same family missing on Bellinghausen atoll in the Society Islands group. A military damage assessment flight has made radio contact with a person who appears to be the only survivor from the Bellinghausen family.

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