A category 5 ‘megastorm’ tropical cyclone has made landfall in the Pacific nation of Fiji. Disaster relief agency ShelterBox already has aid stored on the islands, and is mobilising teams and aid from New Zealand and Australia
Category-5 Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji on Saturday, Feb. 20, killing at least 29 people and leaving more than 13,000 in shelters.
International emergency shelter charity ShelterBox has mobilized a response team and already has emergency aid positioned in Fiji.
Operations Manager Alf Evans says, “Our New Zealand and Australia affiliates are standing by, and we are considering the use of a partner charity that uses superyachts to reach isolated areas. We also have Rotary associates on the islands, so we are getting first-hand accounts of events as they unfold.”
Strong winds and flooding from Winston have caused severe damage across the island nation. A month-long state of disaster has also been declared though Fiji’s two main airports reopened and were fully operational after crews worked overnight Monday clearing debris.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama reassured Fijians that the government was doing all it could. We realize the desperate position that you are in,’ Bainimarama said in a statement after visiting an evacuation center.’
We will not rest until we have reached you and given you the helping hand you so badly need and deserve.
‘Unfortunately, the recovery process will take time, perhaps a long time,’ he added. ‘Almost no part of our nation has been left unscarred.’
The Fijian government has compared the storm to Cyclone Pam, which devastated the islands of Vanuatu last year. Winds of over 200mph and heavy rainfall of up to 15.7 inches are expected for the coming hours. There are around 700 evacuation centres across the islands, mostly school buildings and community centres, and residents have been advised to use them if their homes become unsafe. The National Disaster Management announced a total public curfew from 6pm in an effort to restrict movement and improve safety.
Fiji is a popular tourist destination, known for its beach resorts and scuba diving, has a population of about 900,000 people. The sugar cane industry, popular in the South Pacific, is estimated to have suffered $83 million in damages following the storm.
Fiji includes more than 320 islands, volcanic outcrops and coral atolls. Many are inhabited, but inaccessible and very vulnerable to high tides.
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Cyclone Winston slams into Fiji (ibtimes) Aftermath of Cyclone Winston in Fiji (AFP)