The death toll from a Super cyclone which tore through Fiji over the weekend has risen to 20, and widespread damage, as authorities began to get a grasp on the scale of the disaster and deploy aid to hard-hit outer islands.
Authorities were still having trouble communicating with some areas, including places like Koro Island, which suffered some of the worst damage. More than 6,000 residents across Fiji were staying in emergency shelters after their homes were destroyed or swamped by tidal surges.
Almost 8,000 people remained hunkered down in hundreds of evacuation centres across Fiji where they had headed before tropical cyclone Winston hit late on Saturday with winds of up to 325 kph (200 mph). The majority of the fatalities were along the western coast and were caused mainly by flying debris and drowning in storm surges, authorities said.
Winds from Cyclone Winston, which tore through Fiji over the weekend, reached 177mph (285kph), making it the strongest storm in the Southern Hemisphere since record-keeping began, according to the Weather Underground website.
Metal roofs were ripped off and power lines brought down. Power lines have gone down all of the country and roofing iron, glass, live electric wires and other hazardous materials pose serious threats to public safety. We are working hard to make the streets and communities secure once again but that will take time. Many low lying areas have flooded and many people have been left stunned and confused about what to do.
Fiji’s government has declared a “state of natural disaster” for the next 30 days to help deal with the storm and its expected aftermath. Video from Fiji taken hours before the worst conditions arrived showed trees and power lines bending under heavy winds, and there are initial reports from some Fijian villages of all houses destroyed.