Fiji – Thousands Evacuate as Deadly Cyclone Yasa Makes Landfall

At least 2 people have died in Fiji after Cyclone Yasa made landfall as a category 5 system on 17 December in the Bua Province of Vanua Levu, the country’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said.

Tropical Cyclone Yasa approaching the Fiji Islands, 16 December 2020. Image: NASA

Fiji declared a state of natural disaster and imposed a curfew in advance of the storm. As of 18 December, about 24,000 people were staying in 457 evacuation centres across the country.

In a statement on 18 December, the Prime Minister said the storm brought wind gusts of up to 345 km/h and “tore across Vanua Levu through the night, exiting Sawani, and then sweeping across the central Lau group. Its strength has dropped to category three and it is currently heading southeast.

“After an eastward shift from its original path, just over 93,000 Fijians found themselves in the direct path of the storm. Two fatalities have been confirmed, a 45-year-old man near Labasa and a three-month-old baby. We sadly expect fatalities to rise.”

State media said the fatality in Labasa was a result of a building collapse. No further details were given about the second fatality.

Wind Damage

The worst of Yasa’s damage appears to be a result of strong winds according to initial assessments and images.

Filipe Naikaso, journalist at FBC News, took an aerial survey of some of affected areas in Vanua Levu and reported significant damages to infrastructure in Nabouwalu, Bua, Lekutu, Nasarawaqa, Dreketi and Seaqaqa. He reported “houses were destroyed, roofs blown away, some schools damaged, fallen power lines on the road, a number of crossing washed away and a number of trees were also uprooted.”


Full damage assessments are yet to be carried out but heavy rain from the storm also appears to have caused damage, in particular on the country’s roads. Fiji Roads Authority reported 24 roads closed in the Central Division, 17 roads closed in the Eastern Division, 18 roads closed in the Western Division and 42 roads closed in the Northern Division, mostly as a result of flooding or landslides.

Flooded roads in Fiji after heavy rain from Cyclone Yasa. Photo: Fiji Roads Authority

FBC News reported flooding in Naitasiri Province which had damaged crops and farmland. Drone images showed flooded areas in Cakaudrove Province. Media also reported storm surge caused flooding in Labassa, Macuata Province.

Some heavy rain was reported over the last days. Udu Point on Vanua Leva Island recorded 134.9mm of rain in 24 hours to 17 December. Rakiraki in Ra Province recorded 141.9mm of rain in the same period. Storm surge and rough seas were also predicted to bring significant coastal flooding.

Fiji Meteorological Service said Tropical Cyclone Cyclone Yasa rapidly weakened into a category 3 three system and was located over the Lau Islands with the centre near Lakeba Island as of early 18 December.

Predicted track of Cyclone Yasa as of 18 December 2020. Image: Fiji Meteorological Service

Social Media