CYCLONE VANIA POUNDS NEW CALEDONIA, MOVES SOUTH

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Dangerous storm skirting Norfolk isle

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 13, 2011) – Cyclone Vania pounded New Caledonia's main island with heavy winds and rain, after passing through the Loyalty Islands on Thursday.

[PIR editor’s note: The storm yesterday was tracking southward, to the northwest of Norfolk Island. ]

The Loyalties were also shaken by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake that sent residents running to higher ground despite the bad weather.

Cyclone Vania is now over the southern part of New Caledonia's main island, causing torrential rain and power blackouts.

Les Walker from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community says the major disruption has been loss of power.

"There seems to be in the order of 2,600 households across the territory that are without power at the moment," he said.

"The cyclone's probably increasing in speed moving down the south coast and is now off to the south of the Mayan island and expected to move south."

Mr Walker says the cyclone's increasing in speed as it moves south towards Norfolk Island on Saturday.

Vania, a Category Three storm, blew in from Vanuatu, where it caused widespread minor damage on Thursday.

Disaster management authorities in Vanuatu say they'll probably ask the French government to help out with an aerial assessment of the damage caused by the cyclone Vania.

The cyclone brought down communications, caused floods and destroyed food gardens in the southern islands of Tanna, Erromango and Aniteyum, before moving off towards the Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia.

Peter Korisi, from Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office, says there are communications problems with the affected islands, so they will have to wait for a damage assessment report.

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