SUVA, Fiji -- The tiny South Pacific island nation of Fiji, ripped by Cyclone Eric which claimed at least 11 victims, faced the threat Saturday of another of a 'little family' of hurricane-force storms heading its way.
The new danger was from Tropical Cyclone Nigel, reported about 500 miles west-northwest of Fiji and considered likely to hit the archipelago by midnight Saturday, weather officials said.
A third tropical cyclone, Odette, was apparently following the same path as cyclones Eric and Nigel. But it was churning far to the west of Fiji over the open ocean and not expected to hit land, officials said.
It was being tracked east of northern Australia, about 372 miles behind Cyclone Nigel.
'It's like a little family of storms,' National Weather Service meteorologist Dick Sasaki said.
Cyclone Eric, packing winds of 135 mph, slammed into Fiji's main island of Viti Levu Thursday night. It tore the roofs off government buildings and houses and uprooted huge trees.
At least 11 people were confirmed dead, including one woman who was swept from her boat and drowned. Others were killed by flying debris, collapsing houses and falling trees.
The death toll was expected to rise because emergency crews had been unable to immediately inspect outlying areas.
'We have reports of 14 deaths, mostly in and around Nandi, with 11 confirmed,' Fiji Emergency Service spokesman Isona Gavindi said.
'We have a lot of structural damage to houses, trees have been uprooted, communication systems -- particularly overland -- have broken down.'
The approach of Cyclone Nigel was hampering rescue work and efforts to assess the damage, officials said.
A New Zealand Air Force Hercules aircraft, carrying two helicopters for rescue and aid work, was unable to fly to nearby Fiji because of the approaching cyclone, Gavindi said.
'Only after Nigel has passed will we be able to do any aerial aid work,' he said.
Cyclone Eric blew onto Fiji from the northwest, doing most of its damage in the coastal area of Nandi before being slowed by the mountains in the interior and crossing the south coast near the capital of Suva.
With its winds slowed to 60 mph, the tropical storm struck the neighboring island nation of Tonga to the east. The wind and rain damaged some homes and bananna crops on the west side of the island but inflicted no casualties.
The storm had been expected to hit Tonga with 95-100 mph winds.
In 1982, Tropical Cyclone Isaac devestated the nation, killing four and leaving almost its entire population of 98,000 homeless.