FRANCE SENDS AID TO CYCLONE RAVAGED WALLIS AND FUTUNA

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Majority of houses, nearly all crops destroyed

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (Oceania Flash, March 19, 2010) - MATA’UTU – French aid has started flowing into the French Pacific islands of Wallis and Futuna, which were devastated earlier this week by tropical cyclone Tomas.

Early assessments estimate the island of Futuna, the one closest to Fiji, was the most severely affected, with eighty percent of crops damaged or completely destroyed, and a vast majority of houses and dwellings also severely affected.

Most of the road infrastructure on Futuna was also badly damaged.

On Wednesday, a first military plane flew in from its base of New Caledonia, with a platoon of thirteen French soldiers and a first batch of equipment of about two tons of emergency relief supplies including water purification tablets and tarpaulins.

On Thursday, the French High Commission in Nouméa also announced that for the purposes of relief to Futuna, the French government had requisitioned a civilian Airbus A-320 from Air Calédonie International.

The plane was expected in Wallis on Friday, with another fourteen New Caledonia-based French soldiers (mostly from the engineering section), four members of the New Caledonian Red Cross, officials and another six tons of equipment onboard.

The latest load includes water purification units, generators and water containers.

The supplies were once again to be dispatched to Futuna, where local television has shown scenes of desolation over the past two days.

French overseas territories minister Marie-Luce Penchard said earlier this week emergency funds were to be earmarked as a result of the natural disaster that occurred on Wallis and Futuna.

There was no report of fatality or casualty on Wallis and Futuna that could be directly attributed to the passage of cyclone Tomas.

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