Cyclone leaves 3 dead, 6 missing in Vanuatu

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Associated Press

Posted on March 13, 2014 at 11:02 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 13 at 11:06 PM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Three people are dead and six more missing in Vanuatu after a cyclone hit the Pacific Island nation.

Authorities were flying over the affected northern islands Friday to assess the extent of the damage, said Shadrack Welegtabit, the director of Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office. He said Cyclone Lusi struck Monday and lasted through Wednesday.

"Most cyclones are quick, just two or three hours," he said. "This one was here for two days."

New Zealand is now bracing for Lusi. It's expected to make landfall in the northern part of the country, including the biggest city Auckland, late Friday.

Welegtabit said that in Vanuatu, he's hearing reports of widespread crop damage as well as flooding and mudslides. He said some freshwater supplies have been contaminated by floodwaters and some buildings have been destroyed.

He said two elderly people died in separate incidents after being struck by trees and an infant also died after being swept away by floodwaters.

Vanuatu is home to about 267,000 people on 65 inhabited islands. About 100,000 people live on the islands worst affected by the storm. Lusi caused only minimal damage to the capital, Port Vila.

David Gibson, a Vanuatu government forecast manager, said winds topped 110 kilometers (68 miles) per hour during the storm and that as well as those who died, five more people were seriously injured.

New Zealand's MetService forecasting agency is predicting wind gusts of up to 130 kilometers per hour (81 miles per hour) in some places and up to 17 centimeters (7 inches) of rain.

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