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Family Reported Dead in Fifi Cyclone

January 15, 2003

SUVA, Fiji (AP) _ Rains swept over northern Fiji in the wake of a powerful cyclone, turning a river into a raging torrent that submerged a home and killed a family of seven, survivors said Wednesday.

Two other people, a man and a two-year-old girl, were also killed by Cyclone Ami as it roared over the Pacific island nation on Monday and Tuesday.

However, another two children feared crushed when a church they took shelter was demolished by the cyclone were found safe and well.

The family of seven was killed in the town of Labasa on the northern island of Vanua Levu when floodwaters submerged their home, a Red Cross official told New Zealand’s National Radio, citing accounts from survivors arriving on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu.

``That family was within their home, couldn’t escape and drowned within the home,″ Red Cross Director-General Alison Cupit said. Cupit said that the report had not yet been confirmed by authorities.

Cyclone Ami passed almost directly over Labasa, a town of 20,000, bringing torrential rains that caused a river to spill over its banks.

The 2-year-old girl was killed in the coastal town of Savusavu on Vanua Levu, the second-biggest island in the Fiji group, said Disaster Management Office official Eliki Manodali. On the island of Lakeba a man was drowned by a massive wave, he said.

Officials who flew over the affected islands said damage was widespread but less severe than expected, given the intensity of the storm.

Packing winds gusting up to 125 mph, Ami was the strongest cyclone to hit the area since 1987.

Worst hit were the small Lau group islands of Vanuavatu and Cicia, where most homes were flattened and vegetation stripped from trees and gardens by the force of the winds. Two naval patrol vessels with tarpaulins, food, water and relief teams were expected to reach the islands by Thursday.

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