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Fiji Declares Emergency as Cyclone Tomas Hits - Binati on Rabi mentioned in last part of this story -

Updated: 20 hours 8 minutes ago Lauren Frayer Contributor AOL News
(March 16) -- Fiji has declared a state of emergency and evacuated up to 20,000 residents as Cyclone Tomas rips through the Pacific island nation, flattening homes and generating up to 25-foot waves.

There's been no contact with some of the country's eastern islands since Monday, when phone and communication towers were toppled by fierce 110-mile-per-hour winds. Gusts of up to 145 mph are forecast for today, the Fiji Times reported.

The Category 4 storm -- the second-most severe on a five-point scale -- has left a trail of destruction, with scores of houses and crops decimated. Resulting floods have forced the evacuation of whole islands.
Tropical Cyclone Tomas rages over Fiji, while Tropical Cyclone Ului swirls over the Solomon Islands
A satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Tomas raging over Fiji, right, and Tropical Cyclone Ului swirling over the Solomon Islands, left.

So far one death has been reported -- a woman who drowned when she attempted to rescue two children swept out to sea. The two children survived.

The government declared a state of emergency this morning, and the country's military was struggling to account for its units and then begin distributing supplies to survivors.

"They've lost some communication out to the northern division as well as the eastern division," Anthony Blake, from Fiji's National Disaster Management Office, said in a statement to several news agencies.

Hundreds of tourists are among those hunkering down in hotels or evacuation shelters in the capital Suva, Australian media reported, as Fiji's worst storm in decades smashes ashore. Foreigners are being asked to contact their local consulates. New Zealand's military is poised to send help, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The disaster coordinator of Fiji's Red Cross branch, Vuli Gauna, described how several families on the hard-hit island of Rabi were sheltering together in the only house left standing, which belongs to a retired U.N. peacekeeper.

''He has them all gathered, now about 30 of them in his house and the last he told us they were building barriers with overturned beds and turned over a chest freezer to put the children into,'' he told the Herald. ''The trees had already gone a few hours back so if the house holds up it will be a miracle. It's all about survival now.''

Schools are closed and public services are suspended indefinitely across the island archipelago.
** News services have mixed up the fact that Biniati Sigrah is on Rabi NOT Taveuni, and in is fact the UN Peacekeeper they are referring to.***

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