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NZ ready to assist in Vanuatu

27 February 2004 Media Statement

NZ ready to assist in Vanuatu

New Zealand is ready to provide relief assistance at short notice to cyclone-hit Vanuatu, Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Marian Hobbs said today.

"Information is still coming in, though it is clear that Cyclone Ivy has caused significant damage to crops and houses throughout the island chain," Marian Hobbs said.

"Along with our Pacific disaster relief partners Australia and France, we stand ready to provide help once the Vanuatu Government has determined its immediate relief needs and requested assistance.

"Officials from the three countries met in Wellington today to co-ordinate a response when Vanuatu makes it needs known.

“Fortunately, there are no reports of deaths, although there are unconfirmed reports of injuries."

Vanuatu's Capital, Port Vila, appears to have escaped major damage, although the main wharf is out of action as two fishing vessels have turned on their side and sunk against the wharf.

Telecommunications have been disrupted, with links down to Santo, Lakotoro and Ambrym islands, and some areas are without electricity. Power is also out in some areas. Port Vila’s international airport is open.

The French Government has a Puma helicopter on standby in nearby Noumea ready for aerial surveillance over Vanuatu, but it cannot leave as yet because of the current position of the Cyclone near Noumea.

NZ High Commission staff are checking on New Zealand local residents and visitors, with no reports of any significant problems at this stage.

Cyclone Ivy is now tracking south-west towards New Caledonia and is expected to hit the Loyalty Islands at around 5 pm local time (7 pm NZT) and the Isle de Pins at 11 pm (1am NZT).

Updates on Vanuatu cyclone damage can be found at: www.mfat.govt.nz

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