17 Australians missing after Fiji cyclone

The Federal Government is attempting to contact 17 Australian citizens missing in Fiji’s north after Cyclone Tomas hit the Pacific Island nation earlier this week.

The Government’s overseas aid program, AusAID, says 35 Australians known to be in the area have been accounted for and efforts are continuing to contact the others.

“Thirty-five of the 52 Australians registered in the north are reported as safe and well,” AusAID’s acting director-general, Peter Baxter, said.

“But communications are still down in the area and we expect to make contact with the others as the next couple of days progress.”

The lack of communication is also hindering aid efforts, but an Australian Hercules military plane carrying emergency supplies is on its way to Fiji at the request of the interim government.

The northern and eastern parts of Fiji were the worst affected by the cyclone.

The country’s disaster management team says thousands of people have been left homeless and some villages have been completely wiped out.

Vuli Gauna from the Fijian Red Cross says relief teams should have a better picture of the damage later today.

“It’s basically our priority to ensure that any medical or first aid needs are cared for,” he said.

Cyclone Tomas has been downgraded to a category 3 system but strong wind warnings remain in place for Fiji’s southern regions.

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