Fiji_state_disasterThe Fiji government declared a state of disaster in the cyclone-ravaged nation Tuesday as the scale of damage began to emerge after 17,000 people fled to evacuation centres.

Cyclone Tomas cut a swathe of destruction through the north and east as winds averaging 165 kilometres (102 miles) an hour lashed the Pacific island group for a second day.

The main island of Viti Levu was spared the worst of the devastation but there were reports of extensive damage from the second largest island, Vanua Levu, and eastern outlying islands, officials said.

A state of disaster was declared in the north and east of the country after the National Disaster Council, under military leader Voreqe Bainimarama, met Tuesday to assess the first damage reports.

“The National Disaster Council has declared a state of disaster in the northern division and eastern division,” National Disaster Management Office operations officer Anthony Blake said.

“We have so far got a tally of over 50 homes destroyed  a very serious issue. We expect these figures to increase for the next few days,” Blake told reporters.

Telecommunications and electricity remained out in many parts of Vanua Levu, and water and sewerage supplies were also affected.

Healthcare facilities and police stations were among the buildings damaged in Vanua Levu.

The impact of Cyclone Tomas is expected to lessen from Tuesday evening as it moves to the south of Fiji.

Schools and government offices remained closed and a curfew was extended until early Wednesday for all areas except the relatively lightly affected western region of Viti Levu.

The international airport at Nadi in Viti Levu’s west reopened Tuesday although domestic air and shipping services remained suspended.

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