FRENCH POLYNESIA RECOVERING FROM FLOODING

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (December 29, 1998 - PACNEWS)-- A state of natural disaster has been declared in French Polynesia where floods have left more than 1,300 people homeless and claimed two lives.

The main island of Tahiti was most affected, with the worst rains to hit the French territory since 1991. The island recorded 320 millimeters (13 inches) of rain in 24 hours at the height of the storm.

Floodwaters have damaged the main bridge on the island's west coast, putting it off-limits for all vehicles. Almost eight kilometers (five miles) of Tahiti's only road that circles the island for 120 kilometres (75 miles) has been destroyed.

Its two main water systems have also been severely affected. The two alternative systems, have been activated, but don't have sufficient capacity, forcing water rationing in the area.

The two people killed during the weekend flooding were a 10-year old girl who was sucked into a culvert, and an 18-year old boy caught in raging river waters.

Two people are still missing.

The French Army has moved in to begin repairs. People in isolated areas are being moved out by trucks and helicopters.

Initial, unofficial estimates put the damage at US$ 10 million.

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