Fiji – Tropical Cyclone Winston Causes Destruction and Floods – 21 Reported Dead

Tropical Cyclone Winston has swept across parts of Fiji causing widespread storm damage and flooding, leaving hundreds of homes totally destroyed.

Quoting figures from the country’s National Disaster Management Office, local media in Fiji say that Tropical Cyclone Winston has left 21 people dead and 4 missing.
Local media say that the storm has destroyed houses in numerous areas including Tailevu, Rakiraki, Tavua, Ba, Lautoka, Savusavu, Taveuni, Ovalau, Koro, Vanuabalavu. Damage assessments are continuing and full details of the destruction are as yet unavailable.

ECHO, the EU’s humanitarian department, say that thousands have been left homeless and over 680 houses destroyed on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island.

Winston has started to move south, slightly weakening but remaining an intense Tropical Cyclone. According to ECHO, early on 22 February the cyclone’s centre was located around 500 km west of Viti Levu island in Fiji, and 360 km north-east of Tafea province in Vanuatu, and had maximum sustained wind speeds of 176 km/h.

Expected path of Tropical Cyclone Winston. Image: Fiji Meteorological Service
Expected path of Tropical Cyclone Winston. Image: Fiji Meteorological Service

In a statement earlier today, the Prime Minister stressed the importance of a prompt response by all sections of government to the needs of Fijians across the country who are struggling with the impact of Cyclone Winston.

At today’s briefing session at the National Disaster Management in Suva, the Prime Minister directed disaster officials, the RFMF and police, ministries and other government institutions to immediately deploy resources and personnel to affected areas across the country.

“There are Fijians out there who are without water, without a roof over their heads, without food and without essential services. It is our duty to determine their needs and provide them with the support they need as soon as possible,” he said.

Medical teams have also been mobilized to evacuation centres to provide health services for areas where medical services are inaccessible. The Ministry for Health is also working with humanitarian organizations to deliver medical equipment and services.

Flooding

Much of the damage and destruction has been caused by severe wind. However, the storm also brought torrential rain and flooding in some areas, in particular in Nausori. Several flood warnings have been issued for the area while river levels remain high.

Between 21 and 22 February, Nausori recorded 89.9 mm of rain in 24 hours. Nadi Airport saw 106.7 mm during the same period. Earlier, 147 mm of rain was recorded in Nausori during 24 hours to 21 Feb 06:00 UTC.

Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) issued a flood warning during the evening local time on 22 February. FMS said:

A flood warning remains in force for the following low lying areas that are still above the warning level:

At Navolau station downstream along the Upper Rewa River;
At Rewa Bridge station and low lying areas adjacent to Nausori town;
At Wailotua station downstream to the Wainibuka river;

Aerial images by NZ Defence AirForce, via Government of Fiji. Other images courtesy of Government of Fiji