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Damage still undetermined on cyclone-hit Tuvalu

June 16, 1997

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ New Zealand’s air force flew emergency supplies Sunday to the South Pacific country of Tuvalu, which is struggling to recover from a damaging cyclone.

Cyclone Keli hit Tuvalu’s southern islands of Nukulaelae and Niualakita late last week and then doubled back to hit Niualakita again.

Initial reports said all the homes of the 55 people that live on the island were destroyed. There were no reports of injury.

the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Department said that officials were still trying to assess the extent of the damage.

The crew of the transport plane, which delivered supplies to Tuvalu’s capital of Funafuti, reported seeing widespread damage on Niualakita.

``There was a reasonable belt of trees down. A lot of flattened buildings. The destruction was obvious,″ said Flight Lt. Dean Morrison.

Crewmembers said they saw locals on Niualakita waving from the beach as the plane flew overhead. The storm apparently knocked out communications lines to the island.

About 9,000 people live on Tuvalu’s islands, which lie about 2,000 miles east of New Zealand. The islands rarely experience cyclones, which are common further south in the Pacific.

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