The estimated cost of damages caused by tropical cyclone Winston, which hit the Pacific island nation of Fiji last month, exceeds $470 million, local media reports said Tuesday. Over 44 people died from the cyclone, which destroyed 18,154 homes and buildings, and has left tens of thousands of people living in evacuation centers.
The total cost of damages from the cyclone is nearly 10 percent of the small island nation’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $4.5 billion, calculated as of 2014 by the World Bank data. The economy of Fiji, which is home to over 880,000 people, depends largely on tourism with thousands of visiting the archipelago nation. After the massive destruction by Cyclone Winston — the worst storm recorded in the southern hemisphere — the priority now is to rebuild schools, the National Disaster Management Office reportedly said.
“The buildings that are being repaired are mostly schools and hospital facilities. But the focus now is to get all the schools up and running so that we have the children back in the schools. When it comes to rehab after 30 days then we can discuss further about what other buildings and structures are being repaired,” NDMO Director, Akapusi Tuifagalele, said, according to Fiji One, a local news network.
Among the damages from the cyclone, Fiji Roads Authority was impacted the most with a current estimated damage cost of $135 million, Fiji One reported, while the cyclone cost the agriculture sector, excluding the sugar industry, nearly $120 million. The sugar industry, which is a major export, estimated damages of $80 million.
On Monday, the government reportedly announced several initiatives that will help people cope with the aftermath of cyclone Winston. Authorities reportedly said that a total additional benefit of $19.9 million will be given out by next Friday to 43,624 households who are registered under the Social Welfare Scheme.
Over 23,000 families, who are registered under the Poverty Benefit Scheme, will receive an additional $600 for the next three months starting Friday, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said, according to a local report. He also added that 3,257 families registered under the Care and Protection Scheme will receive a total of $300 by next week.
Rosy Akbar, the minister for women, children and poverty alleviation, reportedly said Monday that all beneficiaries will receive normal monthly assistance from April after the additional benefits are given out.