TRAVELERS TELL OF TONGA WEATHER CHAOS

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (December 29, 1998 -The Press On-Line/Christchurch)---Armin Fruth and Wolfgang Wackerbauer are getting used to the weather blowing away their Tongan travel plans. Last March Cyclone Hina delayed their arrival to take up teaching jobs at a private Tongan school, and over the weekend Cyclone Cora prevented them from leaving the country.

The two German men, and Mr. Wackerbauer's wife, Mele, and eight-month-old son Michael, arrived in Auckland yesterday on the first New Zealand flight out of Tonga after Cora's 160 kmh (96 mph) winds ripped through the islands on Saturday. Mr. Fruth said damage in the capital, Nuku‘alofa, was mostly "cosmetic," with sheets of roofing iron littering the streets.

Another passenger on the plane, Vaka Fonua, said he cycled through storm-ravaged villages south of Nuku‘alofa early yesterday before boarding the flight to Auckland.

"There is a lot of rubbish to clean up but no lives have been lost. That's the main thing," he said.

Amelia Tonu, who was returning from visiting family in Tonga, said the cyclone had been frightening for her seven and 10-year-old daughters, who "screamed up and down the house" as the storm raged.

Cora was not the worst cyclone the islands had endured but "it will take months of tidying up", she said.

Some outlying villages were still without electricity last night and Tongan Superintendent Faiva Tuifua said a food shortage was looming because food crops and banana trees were extensively damaged. A team of Tongan politicians is due to tour the island tomorrow morning to view damage, but there has been no request from the Government for overseas aid.

NZPA

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