Sunday, 21 February 2016

Super cyclone Winston leaves a trail of destruction

Day has only just broken in Fiji so reports are only just starting to come through. Whole villages, however, will have been destroyed,people will have lost everything including the ability to feed themselves.

Winston leaves trail of destruction

Tropical Cyclone Winston is slowly moving away from Fiji, leaving a trail of devastation behind.

Tropical cyclone Winston hits Taveuni

21 February, 2016

Officials were waiting for daylight to fully assess the damage. There were reports of villages where roads had been washed out, and many houses had their roofs blown away, with hundreds of people evacuated.

Large parts of Fiji were without power.

Fiji Meteorology Office forecaster Amit Singh told Fijian radio the system was moving west at about 25km per hour and was expected to move in that direction for the next 12 to 18 hours before it took a turn to the south east.

Fiji Red Cross staff and volunteers getting Black Packs ready for distribution.

He said the worst was over for Fiji with winds having eased in most places.
MetService New Zealand said the category five storm had swept past the capital, Suva, around midnight, and brought sustained winds to the North Eastern part of Viti Levu.

The cyclone is now just west of Viti Levu, and the winds had eased in the capital.

How it unfolded

The category five Cyclone Winston made landfall of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, late on Saturday night hitting the country with winds as high as 325km/h.
The country had spent much of Saturday in lockdown, with transport cancelled and a nationwide curfew and state of emergency declared by the government.

There were initial reports of severe damage across the country, including some of houses being flattened and heavy swells washing away sea walls.

Unconfirmed reports suggested one person died when they were struck by falling debris on Koro island, according to local media, but a police spokesperson was unable that.

The Fiji Meteorological Service said the cyclone made landfall near Rakiraki, a district of close to 30,000 people on the northern coast of the main island, Viti Levu.

Winston had been averaging winds of 230 km/h, gusting as high as 325 km/h, and was forecast to track west along the northern coast at about 25km/h overnight.

The Meteorological Service director, Ravind Kumar, said the cyclone would come within 20km of Nadi, near the country's main international airport and tourist areas, about 6am on Sunday.

"The scenario is not good," said Mr Kumar in a phone interview. "It is a category five system, it is very compact, and it has got very destructive hurricane force winds."

Over the island of Vanuabalavu we recorded winds gusting to 145 knots (268km/h), so you can imagine the destruction that it may leave behind," he said.

Winston struck Viti Levu after passing across Fiji's eastern Lau group of islands. Authorities said contact with the scattered group had been lost and it was unclear what the extent of the damage was.

Late on Saturday night, there were reports of widespread blackouts and communications outages across the country, particularly in the north and east.
Curfew and State of Emergency

Fiji had spend much of Saturday in lockdown, and many days before that bracing itself for impact.

The country went into a curfew at 6 o'clock on Saturday evening, with only essential services permitted to travel.

The government also declared a 30-day nationwide state of emergency in anticipation of widespread destruction, by what was predicted to be one of the most destructive cyclones to ever hit the country of close to one million people.

"As a nation, we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind," said Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said in a statement urging people to heed authorities' warnings.

"Some people in urban areas of the country in particular do not appear to have heeded the warnings about the seriousness of the threat we all face," he said.

More than 700 evacuation centres had been activated throughout Fiji, and disaster authorities urged people in low-lying and exposed areas to evacuate before the cyclone set in.

Public transport and flights were cancelled, and the Fiji Roads Authority urged people to avoid driving on the roads unless absolutely necessary.

Many markets and businesses were ordered to close by the government, and people in the northern towns of Labasa and Savusavu were called on to evacuate.

resident in Savusavu on Vanua Levu, Sharon Wild, said the cyclone was starting to strike the island with incredible ferocity.

Ms Wild said it was the strongest she had ever experienced, and her family had taken to sheltering in the bathroom.

"It's crazy outside, you can't imagine," she said in a phone interview, her voice trembling.

"The coconut trees are swaying right over, I can't even see the island outside. I have no idea how my house is - if I still have a roof on my house. We have the sliding glass doors that are just shaking and they look like they're going to explode, so actually we're all sitting in the bathroom - we're all in the bath."

Both the government and aid agencies said Fiji was prepared for the arrival of cyclone Winston and had stockpiles of relief supplies.

Alice Clements, a spokesperson for Unicef in Fiji, said authorities and agencies had been preparing for Winston's arrival for days.

"The government's been taking it very seriously and it's been doing a great job of reaching out to communities, making sure everyone's aware of where the evacuation centres are, providing constant updates through the weather service and through television, radio and online announcements," Ms Clements said.

Category 5 Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston

"We have supplies that are propositioned here in Fiji ready to go if requested by the government."

The full ferocity of the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the South Pacific was expected to set in as darkness fell on Fiji, and what scene would emerge on Sunday was unclear.

"Tropical cyclone Winston has begun its assault on Fiji," said Mr Bainimarama. "Let us all pray for our nation, ourselves and each other."

Waves sounded like a "747 jet"

Fijians and tourists alike will be waking up this morning to after gauge the damage from an unprecedented category five cyclone.

21 February, 2016

Cyclone Winston was the strongest tropical cyclone ever to strike Fiji, and according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre it was the strongest cyclone to ever form in the southern hemisphere.

Here is the latest cyclone warning from the Fiji Metservice

People went into last night without power, with trees crashing down and waves surging around them, not completely knowing what to expect.

"We're in a room, it's very dark, and they're very strong winds around us... it was quite frightening what was going on outside," Martinborough woman Nalini Baruch from Nadi, said.

She was there with her husband Colin for a long-awaited family reunion, and together they watched from their hotel on Denarau Island as the last flight left.
The morning after category five Cyclone Winston hit Fiji.

The pair were staying at the water's edge, and Ms Baruch said the sound from crashing waves was like standing next to a 747 jet.

The morning after category five Cyclone Winston hit Fiji.

"We're really helpless, there's not much more you can do... our power is out, we're on a generator and we're not too sure how long the hotel can support us on that one generator," she said.

A nation-wide public curfew had been established by the government so people could be protected, and would last until further notice. A 30-day state of emergency had also been declared.

Daughter hunkers down

The eighteen year old had only been on the island for two days to start what was supposed to be about six months' worth of volunteer work at a primary school.

She had been in Fiji for just over a week.

Speaking to RNZ News last night, Ms Turner said she was able to talk with her daughter by phone early in the day, but then had to rely on the internet and social media.

"They're hunkered down in the school building which is the safest place.
"But on Facebook she told us all the roofs of the houses have been blown off, all the crops have been uprooted... and a fair bit of devastation there," she said.

Ms Turner said she never expected her daughter would have to face the ferocity of Cyclone Winston.

"We thought, you know, Fiji 'oh it's the safest place in the world to send your child on a gap year, and we said the only thing we'd be worried about was cyclones, and then this happens."

The group Chelsea was volunteering through gave training on what to do in a cyclone when she arrived, Ms Turner said.

Power out, trees crashing down

Iris Low-McKenzie heads Save The Children in Fiji and lost power just as she spoke with RNZ News as the storm approached her, and her family, in Suva.
"We've never experienced a category five cyclone so we really don't know what to expect... but we know that it's going to be devastating.

"This is extraordinary," she said as trees tumbled to the ground nearby.
She said people had taken precautions after being able to spend a few days preparing for Cyclone Winston.

But Ms Low-McKenzie said she feared for people in low-lying areas and people in "informal settlements" which had buildings that were of a low standard.

Aid agencies prepared

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies spokesperson Ahmad Sami said blocked roads, communication disruptions, and water and sanitation would be monitored today.

"Fiji Red Cross has stock to cover 2500 families and it is well located in strategic areas around Fiji, so it's not in one place.

"It's been distributed among 14 branches and also at the headquarters - we have access to 10 trucks for immediate transportation needs."

Mr Sami said the Red Cross had also urged suppliers to be on stand-by in case stocks of aid needed to be replenished.

MFAT advice for New Zealanders

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said last night that 186 New Zealanders were registered as being in Fiji.

"The Ministry has updated its travel advisory for Fiji due to Cyclone Winston to 'high risk'. We now advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel to Fiji," it said.

"New Zealanders in Fiji are strongly encouraged to register with on MFAT's and should follow the advice of the local authorities at all times, including any evacuation orders, and seeking suitable shelter and keeping their family in New Zealand regularly informed of their well-being.

Air New Zealand flights between Nadi and Auckland had been cancelled.

The NZ Herald is running live coverage


Here are a few of the tweets and photos that have come through

Here is some good coverage from Radio NZ

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