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Cyclone Zoe Devastates Polynesian Island - 2003-01-01

A freelance filmmaker has flown over a small South Pacific island hit by a tropical cyclone, a few days ago, and reports seeing massive devastation. Geoff Mackley says Tikopia Island has been denuded of vegetation. He reports on his Web site that almost every building appears to be damaged. One of his photos shows extensive destruction.

Cyclone Zoe passed directly over the tiny island, part of the Solomon Islands, on Sunday. The storm had winds that topped 300 kilometers an hour. Two other nearby islands also were hit.

The three South Pacific islands have a combined population of around 2,000 people. Contact with them has been cut off since Saturday. Solomon Islands authorities say they fear many of the residents may have died in the storm.

Mr. Mackley, an independent filmmaker from New Zealand, flew over Tikopia early Wednesday. The island has no airstrip, so his plane could not land. He says he saw about 20 people wave as the plane flew by.

The islands are about one thousand kilometers from the capital of the Solomon Islands, Honiara. Even in the best of times, contact is sporadic. The islands have no telephones, and usually residents communicate with the rest of the world by radio.

A boat carrying relief supplies has not yet left Honiara, apparently because the Solomons' government is nearly bankrupt and there has not been enough money to start the voyage. An Australian military plane also was scheduled to fly over the islands, later Wednesday, to assess the damage.