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Neighbors fly aid to cyclone-hit island in South Pacific

June 14, 1997

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ France, New Zealand and Australia are flying emergency aid to the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu, which was slammed by a cyclone.

A New Zealand Air Force transport plane left Auckland on Saturday carrying water and tarpaulins after reports that the 55 inhabitants of Niualakita atoll were desperately short of water, food and shelter.

Cyclone Keli struck on Friday and Saturday and leveled all the homes on Niualakita, leaving only a church, school and store standing. Stormy seas prevented any boats from landing.

A New Zealand air force cargo plane was to reach Tuvalu’s capital of Funafuti on Sunday.

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

Keli hit the southern atolls of Niualakita and Nukulaelae, then doubled back and hit Niualakita a second time.

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