A Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules has just completed a survey of remote areas of Fiji hit by Cyclone Tomas.
"Quite a few villages look like they have been hit pretty hard,” Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki told Stuff from the runway at Labasa on the northern coast of Vanua Levu a short time ago.
Many homes had lost their roofs and some houses were destroyed, he said.
They did not see many people.
'We think they have fled to safety inland."
Fiji’s Commissioner Northern, Colonel Inia Seruratu, was onboard the flight.
"We got a good view of the devastation,” he said, adding it justified the decision to get emergency shelter and water containers into the area.
He was confident though that most of the people would be safe as they had received plenty of warning and the emergency shelters were strong.
He wanted to stress the appreciation for New Zealand’s quick action in sending the Hercules.
"It's been critical and we appreciate it very much," he said.
With a Fiji Navy operation to reach the outer islands in the next couple of days, the aid can be coordinated and delivered quickly to where it was needed, he said.
Meanwhile remote Fijian island pounded by Cyclone Tomas for four days has phoned the outside world to report "huge" damage.
Cikobia, at the north eastern end of Fiji, has been smashed by Tomas and its nearly 200 people completely cut off.
Authorities had been worried about their fate.
State Fiji Broadcasting (FBC) reported this morning that a 58-year-old man phoned them and spoke briefly before the line was lost.
He told the FBC Tomas hovered angrily over the island for four days, throwing up sand, scattering debris, pulling down trees and smashing houses on the island.
The man says the extent of the damage on the island is so huge and that it will take them two days to clear their way to the only school near the village.
Fijian patrol boats will head to the island later today.
A state of disaster was declared in northern and eastern parts of Fiji yesterday as Cyclone Tomas moved southeast out to sea towards the Lau Island group.
More than 18,000 people have fled their homes after massive winds flattened trees and houses and waves washed away buildings.
New Zealand has pledged $1 million to the aid effort.
Villagers on the cyclone-battered Fijian island of Koro had their chainsaws, shovels and assorted tools out today clearing roads, rebuilding homes and dealing with damage from winds which gusted to 240kmh.
Koro, to the northeast of the main island of Viti Levu, was badly damaged by Cyclone Tomas in the last two days, with many homes among the island's 14 villages badly damaged or destroyed.
However, the islanders were resourceful and independent and had already started rebuilding, a spokesman for the Dere Bay Resort on the western side of the island, Julian Hennings told NZPA.
He said during the cyclone, when winds gusted to 240kmh, islanders helped each other.
"They depend on each other. That is the way they have been living for hundreds of years. They are quite self-sufficient."
But this time they may need help from outside the island community because many of the houses were built from modern materials shipped from the mainland, rather than traditional materials.
One person was confirmed dead but authorities expected the death toll to rise.
Meanwhile, another category four cyclone, Ului, has battered parts of the Solomon Islands, damaging houses and blocking roads as it moves towards Australia.
While the Fijian capital of Suva was buffeted by 110kmh winds and fishing boats were washed on to the reef, damage has been minimal.
On Vanua Levu, 200kmh winds destroyed at least 50 houses and blocked roads. In the village of Wainika, waves breached a seven-metre-high sea wall and swept through buildings and homes. In Macuata, villagers hid from the storm's fury in caves and a church.
Source : stuff