UPDATE: 2:20 p.m. EST — Officials are preparing to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Winston in Fiji Saturday as large parts of the island remain without power, Radio New Zealand reported. Fiji was on lockdown, with a state of emergency and a national curfew declared in anticipation of the strongest recorded storm to ever hit the nation.
Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in the Pacific island nation of Fiji Saturday. The Category 5 hurricane, which bore down with winds of 185 miles per hour, is the strongest ever to hit Fiji, the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.
The cyclone prompted the cancelation of flights to and from Fiji, which is home to about 900,000 people. Airlines operating in the region including Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Qantas and Fiji Airways all reported canceled flights.
A local radio station reported that the storm resulted in the death of an elderly man in the Koro Island after his house collapsed. However, authorities have not confirmed the fatality. Cyclone Winston reportedly re-intensified and began to move toward Suva, the capital of Fiji, after battering outlying islands in nearby Tonga last week.
“As a nation we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind,” Fiji's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama wrote on Facebook Saturday, saying that the country's evacuation centers were operational and the government was prepared to deal with a potential crisis. “We must stick together as a people and look after each other,” Bainimarama added.
The government declared a state of emergency in the island nation that will be in effect for the next 30 days. The country’s disaster management reportedly said that the government has imposed a curfew on all public transportation, including busses, minibuses and taxis.
The storm is expected to gradually start to weaken to a Category 4 cyclone overnight and into Sunday, as it moves over Fiji, WeatherWatch head analyst Philip Duncan said, according to the New Zealand Herald.
"We believe it may weaken faster due to its last minute track further south over land, but flooding, slips, destructive winds and significant storm surges are all likely overnight tonight, especially in the northern half of Viti Levu," Duncan reportedly said.
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