Cyclone Winston Batters South Pacific Islands

Cyclone Winston Update: 325 KPH Wind Batters Fiji, One Believed Dead

A state of emergency has been declared in Fiji as a tropical Cyclone Winston batters the country with estimated wind gust of up to 325 kph. Said to be a category five storm, it is the strongest recorded storm in the southern hemisphere. Category five is the highest ranking on the hurricane wind scale.

Cyclone Winston has been the major reason for the disaster in Fiji and an old man from Nabasovi, Koro Island has been reported dead. Fiji Disaster Management Committee (DISMAC) officer Vatia Vasuca reported the incident to FBC news saying that the man died after a roof top fell on him.

The wind started making landfall on the main island of Vitu Levu and na national curfew was announced just before at 6 p.m. local time. Flash flooding and sinking of boats had been reported on the nation’s outer islands including Vanua Levu.

It is carrying average winds of 220km/h, with gusts of up to 325km/h recorded, according to Fiji’s meteorological service. New Zealand’s Weatherwatch said the storm was the strongest on record to hit Fiji and had been generating waves up to 12m high.

All of the domestic and international flights have been cancelled because of the Cyclone Winston and a total of 758 evacuation center have been issued across the nation with around 900,000 people.

The country’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, said on Saturday that the island’s evacuation centres were operational and the government was prepared to deal with a potential crisis. Bainimarama also urged the residents to protect themselves and stay safe as the Cabinet also declared a state of natural disaster effective for the next 30 days.

“As a nation we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind,” he wrote. “We must stick together as a people and look after each other.”

“Tropical Cyclone Winston has begun its assault on Fiji. It is being described as one of the most powerful in recorded history – a Category 5 cyclone with winds approaching 300 kilometres an hour.”

The storm is said to bring a “catastrophic damage” across Fiji by Save the Children Fiji’s chief executive, Iris Low-McKenzie. The island nation is one of the most popular travel destination around the world with hundreds of thousands of tourists coming in every year.

“We’re extremely concerned about the impact this will have on children, who are particularly vulnerable during emergencies,” she said.

The Cyclone Winston is also believed to hit several other Fijian islands on Saturday with landfall just north of the country’s most populated city, Suva. The storm is believed to hit every islands in the country before it leaves on Sunday.

“This is a slow-moving storm that’s tracking an unusual pattern and has already hit Tonga twice. Alarmingly, it has intensified as it moved towards Fiji,” Low-McKenzie added.

“It looks as though the storm could pass over the international airport in Nadi, which, if significant damage is caused, will make the humanitarian response all the more difficult.”

Fiji’s weather service has warned people in the east to “expect very destructive hurricane-force winds”, Suva resident Alice Clements said the power had failed just after 5 pm and she expected water supplies to be hit next.

“I have palm trees flying all around me at the moment,” said Clements, an official with a UN agency. “The cyclone has tracked further north than expected over the past 24 hours,” the UN agency said.

[Photo by UNICEF via Getty Images]