MELBOURNE, Australia (The Age, Jan. 1) - Strong winds and stormy conditions delayed a disaster assessment team bound for remote islands in the Solomons group hit by Cyclone Zoe on Dec. 28.

Zoe struck the Tikopia, Anuta and other smaller Solomon islands late on Saturday night.

Oxfam Community Aid Abroad field representative in Honiara, Val Stanley, said the assessment team, due to leave Honiara for the remote islands on Tuesday, would leave Wednesday following warnings from the meteorological office.

The Australian government has ordered an RAAF aircraft - most likely a maritime surveillance Orion - to fly over two of the islands on Wednesday morning.

Stanley said poor communication systems meant information on the state of the islands and the welfare of their 4,000 residents was not yet known.

"They are so far-flung that even in normal times we can't communicate with them easily," Ms Stanley said.

When the assessment team had a picture of the damage Oxfam Community Aid Abroad's Melbourne office would begin assembling whatever emergency aid was required, Stanley said.

She predicted the islands would require supplies of water, shelter, food and clothing.

"It was a very, very big cyclone that's hit them," Stanley said.

"There's very (few) places they can shelter, so they are bound to be exposed quite a bit. They are bound to have difficulties with food and there are bound to be some casualties."

January 1, 2003

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