7 DEAD IN FIJI: NZ stand ready to help Fiji after Cyclone Winston devastation
A public curfew took effect across Fiji from 6pm this evening affecting some 900,000 people after Cyclone Winston wrought a path of destruction through the Melanesian nation leaving seven people dead and fears of entire villages destroyed.
As the Fiji government declared a ‘State of Diaster’ for 30-days, New Zealand’s Pacific People’s minister Peseta Sam Lotu-I’iga reassured New Zealand’s Fijian community his government stands ready to assist Fiji after the devastation left by Cyclone Winston yesterday.
“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with the people of Fiji as they start the recovery after CycloneWinston,” he told Pacific Guardians from a function hosted by Auckland Mayor Len Brown.
“New Zealand is home to many Fijians and we share their concerns about their loved ones that may have been affected. I have been in touch with the President of the Fijian Association and offered support to them and their community. But for now, the priority is to assess the damage on the ground in Fiji.”
Peseta confirmed that more than 700 evacuation centres have been activated in Fiji and that relief teams from New Zealand have been mobilized to help recovery efforts and local authorities assess the extent of the damage.
“Foreign Affairs minister, McCully announced that an Air Force Orion is on its way to do an aerial surveillance and assessment. Our government has released an initial emergency funding of $50,000 through our High Commission in Fiji to assess the initial damage on what further aid and assistance is required,” he said.
“I want to assure our Fijian community in New Zealand that our government will be working closely with the Fijian government. But the priority is to get the initial assessment done so that scale of support required is known. That will become much more clearer over the next 24 hours but our first priority is to make sure people are safe and have the short-term assistance they need.”
Category 5 Cyclone Winston, with wind gusts up to 325km/h and waves up to 12meters high is the strongest cyclone to hit Fiji.
Earlier, Prime Minister Bainimarama confirmed five people have died – that number has risen to seven and likely to grow with the number of seriously injured reported by local media.
Reports from various sources detail fears that entire villages have been destroyed and that essential services such as communications and electricity have been cut particularly in the north and east. It is likely water supplies will be next.
According to the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, 1066 people remain sheltering at 35 evacuation centres across Vanua Levu. Food rations are about to be distributed.
Officials are telling people to stay indoors because of damage to the power network, and live wires lying in the streets.
All schools in the country will go on a break for one week from tomorrow. Education Minister Mahendra Reddy said the break would allow parents and students to recover from the cyclone.
Many markets and businesses were ordered to close by the government, and people in the northern towns of Labasa and Savusavu were called on to evacuate.
WHO TO CONTACT
Anyone with concerns for the welfare of people in Fiji should call: MFAT on +64 4 439-8000
Fiji Relief Appeal: Mr. Nacanieli Yalimaiwai, Chairman, Fiji Community Association; (021) 923-689
Va’vau Relief Appeal: Mrs. Asenita Letele Tui Afitu-Tiseli, Tongan community leader; (021) 0243-1250