The death toll from Tropical Cyclone Winston that hit Fiji Saturday rose to 21 while the country’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama ordered the disaster officials, the RFMF and police, ministries and other government institutions to immediately send resources to help the affected people. Cyclone Winston, which was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane from a Category 5, has destroyed several homes in the region through floods and strong winds, leading to declaring an emergency and a state of disaster in the region.
The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), an official radio broadcaster in the country, cited the National Disaster Management Office to confirm the latest death toll. The report also stated that four people were still missing at sea while 8438 people are currently in 68 evacuation centres around the country.
A previous FBC report cited Divisional Planning Officer West, Sitiveni Tavaga, saying that of the total fatalities, 10 people died on the Western division of the country. Tavaga also said that seven fishermen from the Yasawa Island in the Western division of the country went missing at sea since Friday. A Category 5 hurricane is classified as one with winds higher that 156 mph, the strongest level.
“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,” Bainimarama told officials at a briefing with National Disaster Management Office, according to Fiji Times, a local newspaper.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Manasa Tagicakibau said, according to the Fiji Times, that air support from France, Australia and New Zealand is set to arrive at the Nadi International Airport in the Western division to help the country in conducting relief operations. The report also added that assessment teams have also been sent to the division.
“Once we have all the information we need, we will begin relief efforts in a coordinated manner,” Tagicakibau said.
Tropical Cyclone Winston is the strongest ever to hit the country. Though the curfew in place since Saturday as been lifted, Bainimarama asked people to remain cautious and avoid movement as much as they can.
The Pacific Disaster Center said Sunday that the cyclone is on a weakening trend over the open ocean and would be moving toward the South Pole over the coming few hours.