Cyclone Winston toll rises as Fiji starts clean-up
FIJI has launched a clean-up after the most powerful cyclone in the Pacific island-nation’s history left a trail of destruction, killing at least 21 people, destroying homes and damaging infrastructure.
The storm struck the popular tourist destination overnight on Saturday, packing wind gusts of 325km an hour, according to the United Nations humanitarian agency, OCHA.
Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office said that 21 people had been confirmed dead yesterday.
No immediate breakdown of the deaths was available but the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reported many of the dead were from the hard-hit west of the country. Seven fishermen were also missing at sea.
Al Jazeera said that the country’s major cities of Suva and Nadi appeared to have escaped the brunt of the storm.
“But until proper information comes in from other areas, it is still hard to say that Fiji has dodged a bullet,” it said.
Winston was the first storm system to hit Fiji measuring a maximum Category Five.
“Homes have been destroyed, many low-lying areas have flooded,” Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister, said in a statement.
“In the aftermath of this great tragedy, many are without power and full access to water, and are cut off from communication.”
The cyclone, the strongest ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, flattened scores of homes, crippled infrastructure and forced terrified residents to shelter in evacuation centres.
Photographs taken from a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane showed the devastation wrought on remote villages that bore the brunt.