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HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, Jan. 7) – Winds of more than 200 kilometers per hour slammed into the Pacific island of Niue on Tuesday, leaving what local observers described as the worst devastation in the nation’s history.

According to Fairfax New Zealand newspapers, Cyclone Heta caused major damage in Niue’s capital of Alofi, flattened homes, wiped out crops, and killed at least one person.

No official damage estimates were available, however, as the island’s communications links suffered heavy damage.

The Kingdom of Tonga, meanwhile, reported some damage from the passing storm, including uprooted trees, ruined crops, and demolished houses.

Niue, which has a population of about 2,000, is located south of Samoa and east of Tonga. It is an independent country in free association with New Zealand.

Meteorologists said yesterday the powerful cyclone was weakening as it moved south into open water.

The Fiji Meteorological Service located Heta southeast of Niue at about 6 a.m. yesterday, with winds near its center estimated at about 90 knots. The eye of the story was no longer detectable.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Niue Premier Young Vivian was in New Zealand when the storm hit. "A wind force of that strength will really destroy all crops and I'm afraid will affect the houses too," he told the ABC.

Cyclone Heta swept the Samoas on Monday, with one reported death and undetermined damage from high winds and waves.

January 7, 2004


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