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By Pauline Benson

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 29, 2002 – Wansolwara Online-USP/Pasifik Nius)---Two staff members from the University Of the South Pacific's Suva-based information technology section were to take the first flight out to the Marshall Islands today in a bid to restore communication with the USP's Marshall Islands fire-ravaged campus.

The blaze yesterday damaged part of the building and some equipment.

Police have yet to determine the cause of the fire.

In an interview today with USP's Laucala-based Radio Pasifik, acting director of University Extension Eileen Tuimalealiifano said the fire broke out about 5:00 p.m. in a storage room.

From there it spread to the adjoining audio-visual room and cloakrooms.

Center director Irene Tauvaki was working at the time and was able to alert the fire department.

The fire was brought under control within an hour, saving the bulk of the center and its facilities, but some communication equipment was damaged.

A local tutor and some students were also at the complex at the time and together with the center director were able to rescue most of the equipment.

"We have spoken to the USP net operator and the information we have is that all equipment, except that bolted to the floor was saved," said assistant registrar John Urusamo.

The university is currently assessing the extent of damage to the center, while local police investigate the cause of the blaze.

Power and telephone services were still down at the center this morning.

Urusamo said all possible was being done to ensure that the campus remains open.

He did not believe that activities in the second semester would be affected, although for now, while some rooms are available for staff use, a number of training projects will have to be suspended.

USP director of university extension, Dr. Richard Wah, said while the fire would cause temporary disruption to the center, the university was acting quickly to restore services to USP's distance education students in the Marshall Islands.

"We are extremely grateful for the quick actions of staff, students and volunteers to save much of the center's equipment and resources," Wah said.

"More importantly, we are very relieved that none of our staff or students were injured."

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