Stab Magazine | Cyclone Winston kills 29 in Fiji
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Cyclone Winston kills 29 in Fiji

Words by Morgan Williamson | All photos by Fijian Gov On Saturday a Cat-5 storm, Tropical Cyclone Winston spun destruction through the Fijian archipelago. By today the official death count has reached 29, however it’s feared this number will increase once total communication is restored to the islands. As record setting winds reached 296 kilometers (184 […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Words by Morgan Williamson | All photos by Fijian Gov

On Saturday a Cat-5 storm, Tropical Cyclone Winston spun destruction through the Fijian archipelago. By today the official death count has reached 29, however it’s feared this number will increase once total communication is restored to the islands. As record setting winds reached 296 kilometers (184 mph) the storm howled through the two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, where the majority of the nation’s 900,000 residents live, leaving 13,000 homeless.

Fiji, comprised of more than 100 inhabited islands holds some of the world’s premiere surf breaks and is currently in shambles. A state of emergency has been declared and many residents are without water, shelter, essential supplies and services. The winds lifted homes from their foundations in Kausori and Korovou. Parts of the Savusavu and Nabouwalu wharfs were destroyed by the constant, heavy blows of the sea and both have been shut down for months for repair. In Rakiraki, a major town on the north coast of Viti Levu, over 1000 homes were destroyed and more than 500 homes have been partially damaged, as reported by local officials.

All evacuation centers throughout the islands were activated. New Zealand’s Defense Force sent a C-130 aircraft stocked with relief supplies and a Joint Reconnaissance Team, including personnel from their Fire Service and Ministry Health staff to assist the Fijian Gov. Australia has also pledged over 5 million dollars to help the relief.

Namotu and Tavarua, home to Cloudbreak and Restaurants were generally missed by the brunt of the storm. “Both Tavarua and Namotu got really lucky,” Sean Murphy, owner of Waterways Travel tells Stab.  “They are both back and operational now.” The storm blew through the islands, striping the trees and bushes of their branches and leaves, however it was not strong enough to uproot the foliage. “There’s minor damages to the infrastucture,” he says. “A little bit of roofing metal was lost but nothing major. There’s resorts close by, like Castaway Island, that will be closed for the next month to rebuild and repair.”

“We evacuated everybody Thursday afternoon,” Mr Murphy continues, “and brought them back to the mainland. Flights were cancelled through the weekend. A lot of the people who were evacuated were booked to stay for two weeks. They were given the choice to get home as soon as possible or stick it out and see if they’ll be able to get back to the islands. Those people are just getting back today with an understanding that it’s a bit of a mess. Currently on Namotu and Tavarua we have enough staff and supplies to feed and house visitors.”

“The main island took a heavy hit from the storm,” he says. “Tavarua is at the very bottom of the Mamanuca Island chain. The cyclone came right through the gap of the main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu before it moved southwest. The main island and a lot of the resorts in the northern part of the Mamanuca’s are in bad shape. The infrastructure in the villages aren’t built to the magnitude that western run resorts such as Tavarua are and they suffered a lot of damage. There’s still problems with power and communication.”

It will be a long winded recovery for the Pacific Island nation as they rebuild and mourn.

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