RELIEF ON WAY TO DEVASTATED NIUE

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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 8) - A New Zealand air force relief flight is today due to fly to the cyclone devastated island of Niue.

The first relief flight to the tiny Pacific nation will be taking basic medical supplies and other essentials to help the hundreds of residents affected by cyclone Heta.

The New Zealand High Commissioner on the island, Sandra Lee, has described the devastation as massive with the main town of Alofi being virtually flattened.

There has been at least one confirmed fatality, a woman was killed and her baby seriously hurt when their house collapsed during the 300-kilometre an hour onslaught.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry spokesman Brad Tattersfield, says the initial flight will be part of efforts to make a full assessment of the island's needs.

The New Zealand Transport Minister, Paul Swain, says two assessors will be on board the flight as will Niue's Premier, Young Vivian, who has been in Auckland with his wife who died this week.

The Premier says he fears long-term damage has been caused to Niue's few cash crops such as taro, vanilla and limes.

"They will be taking up tarpaulins, blankets, water and water purification equipment. There will also be some people from government agencies here doing assessments of the damage," Vivian said. "Just what the on-going arrangements will be in terms of meeting the cost of all that remains to be seen, but certainly New Zealand, along with Australia we expect, will be picking up a fair portion of the cost."

January 8, 2004

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

 

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