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Cyclone Oli Forces Hundreds to Evacuate in French Polynesia

Cyclone Oli buffeted French Polynesia on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents and tourists to churches, schools and temples.

The archipelago that includes Tahiti was under red alert until the cyclone passes, and all roads were closed. Towering waves were buffeting buoys off the coast of Tahiti's capital, Papeete. French television showed a naval ship pitching in the storm.

One person was seriously injured after falling from a roof in Bora Bora and hundreds on the Iles Sous-le-Vent and Iles-du-Vent archipelagoes have been evacuated, Magali Charbonneau, senior adviser to the region's top French official, said on RFO radio. She said they were being housed in churches and schools.

Charbonneau predicted waves up to 26 feet high, and urged families — especially children — to stay inside. Hundreds of homes were damaged, and communication and power lines were down. She said evacuees were being housed in churches, schools and temples.

A statement from the French regional commissariat said that more than 650 tourists were given refuge in secure hotels, but provided no further information. The statement said a fisherman was rescued at sea.

Winds overnight to Thursday averaged 90 miles an hour, with gusts at 120 miles an hour, and were expected to pick up speed, according to the statement.