Rescue boat finally arrives at islands hit by cyclone

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The Independent Online

A boat carrying relief supplies has arrived at remote South Pacific islands battered by a cyclone and found that islanders had all survived the storm.

A boat carrying relief supplies has arrived at remote South Pacific islands battered by a cyclone and found that islanders had all survived the storm.

The Solomon Islands patrol boat reached Tikopia at dawn yesterday, a week after Cyclone Zoe whipped up waves that washed away villages and contaminated water supplies.

There were fears hundreds were killed, but the 1,300 islanders followed ancient trails to high ground after learning of the storm's approach on their one solar-powered radio.

Medical staff from Ausaid, the Australian government aid agency, said no one had been seriously injured on Tikopia.

A nurse, named only as Monica, said it was a miracle no one had been killed. "It was divine providence," she said. "People took off in the dark with whatever they had on as the huge waves came in and the wind started blowing stronger and stronger. They left everything behind."

Inhabitants of the neighbouring island, Anuta, where the patrol boat arrived today, are also safe. A surveillance flight reported that the island, home to about 1,000 people, suffered less damage in the cyclone.

A French navy team visited Moto Lava, a third island pounded by the cyclone, and reported that all its inhabitants were alive.

Australia and New Zealand had been criticised for failing to act more swiftly to help their impoverished neighbour.

The patrol boat left Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, only after Australia agreed to pay for its fuel.

A second vessel, a commercial ship chartered jointly by Australia and New Zealand, is scheduled to reach the area today, carrying food, water, medical supplies and building materials.

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