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Tonga Surveys Cyclone Damage

January 3, 2002

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ Officials in the tiny South Pacific kingdom of Tonga are calling for international aid after a tropical cyclone tore through its northern islands.

Cyclone Waka hit Monday and Tuesday with more than 105 mph winds before slipping away to open ocean.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported in the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga, which sits just east of the international date line. But Tonga’s National Disaster Committee said Thursday that help was needed as food crops were destroyed and many buildings and houses wrecked. Yachts were sunk and a wharf at Neiafu in the Vava’u Group was ripped apart.

``Food-bearing trees like coconuts and breadfruit have been destroyed,″ Deputy director Maliu Pakai said from the capital of Nuku’alofa, more than 280 miles to the south of the worst-hit areas. ``As far as buildings are concerned, 60 to 70 percent have been destroyed or damaged.″

Power and water supplies on the main Vava’u island had been cut and crops wiped out, he said. Some 20,000 people live around Neiafu.

New Zealand said it would soon send relief supplies.

``Some areas are totally devoid of vegetation, especially on exposed hills,″ New Zealand High Commissioner Warwick Hawker said Thursday after a reconnaissance flight.

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