Hurricane Hammers Island Nation of Fiji

SUVA, Fiji, March 16 (UPI) — A Category 4 hurricane battering Fiji for four days has destroyed at least 50 homes, but deaths are unconfirmed because of downed communications, officials say.

Fijian disaster-management officials say they have received reports of several deaths in the Lau group of islands resulting from Hurricane Tomas, but the police cannot confirm them until the restoration of communications, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported Tuesday.

Public buildings and hospitals have been destroyed, and roofs ripped off by the hurricane’s 155 mph winds.

Seventeen-thousand people have been evacuated to more than 200 shelters, the ABC said.

Hurricane Tomas, which had first moved through the north, is currently affecting the smaller low-lying islands in the east.

“In the northern division, what we get is roofs blown off, houses flattened, trees being broken,” said Anthony Blake, a relief coordinator with Fiji’s disaster-management organization, DISMAC.

“In the eastern division in the Lau Group, we’ve got unconfirmed reports where whole villages have had roofs blown off and people are taking shelter in caves.”

UNICEF spokesman Tim Sutton says there’s also a health problem.

“Fiji has been suffering from an outbreak of typhoid for the last month or so, so with people congregating in evacuation centers there is the potential for that also to explode.”

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