Cyclone Winston: Fiji death toll rises

(Fiji Government)
(Fiji Government)

An additional $1.8 million in aid will be sent to Fiji from New Zealand following Cyclone Winston, as 10 deaths are confirmed in Fiji with the government expecting that number to rise.

At least 10 people have died after category five Cyclone Winston made landfall late on Saturday, delivering gusts as high as 325km/h, and causing widespread damage and evacuations.

Cyclone Winston: Fiji death toll rises

(Mitch McCann / Newshub)

Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced an additional $1.8m in aid funding this afternoon with extra support set to depart for Fiji later in the day.

"A New Zealand Defence Force C-130 will depart for Suva carrying relief supplies and a Joint Reconnaissance Team made up of NZDF personnel, and Fire Service and Ministry of Health staff," he said.

UNICEF spokesperson Alice Clements says there are still a number places across the country they have not yet been able to contact, and says many of those areas could well have been devastated.

"Some communities appear to have had a rough night but are largely intact, and there are some that are just flattened."

Cyclone Winston: Fiji death toll rises

(Mitch MCCann / Newshub.)

"There are some where there are just pieces of houses scattered everywhere and all you can see is a concrete pad where there should be a house.

"People's homes, their possessions, their food source and even their livelihoods are gone in one night."

Ms Clements says the New Zealand Air Force has carried out aerial surveyin in an attempt to "find out what assistance is needed and how quickly it can get in".

The director of Fiji's National Disaster Management Office, Akapusi Tuifagalele, says people are in desperate need of assistance, especially in remote areas of the country.

"[They need help to] rebuild their houses if needed and also to vacate the schools, especially the schools that are being used because after one week from tomorrow they will be needed again for our children," says Mr Tuifagalele.

Cyclone Winston: Fiji death toll rises

(Mitch MCCann / Newshub.)

The island nation declared a state of emergency and a curfew as the Category 5 storm hit made landfall on Saturday.

Wind gusts of high as 325km/h battered the country, in the worst tropical storm in Fiji's history.

Damage from the cyclone is estimated to be around NZ$154 million.

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand has given a "small amount of money" as an emergency gesture and will help the country to rebuild.

"Fundamentally there'll be a clean-up and look, New Zealand will help because we always help in these situations," he told the Paul Henry programme this morning.

UNICEF communications director Patrick Rose says it will be another day or so until we have a more accurate idea of the damage the cyclone has wreaked.

"The damage is really catastrophic, as some of the first reports and first images indicate. It's hard to reach some of those areas around Lautoka and Ba in that sort of northwest coast," says Mr Rose.

He says UNICEF's primary focus is helping the nation's children.

Cyclone Winston: Fiji death toll rises

(Mitch MCCann / Newshub.)

"One of the things that is clear is that about 300,000 children live in Fiji and all of them would have been affected in different ways.

"There are whole schools that have been destroyed, whole villages in some reports. What that means for children is really what UNICEF's going to be advocating for. These children are going to need a whole range of services and support."

Mr Rose says the biggest hit to Fijians will be the damage to crops.

"A lot of these communities are living quite hand to mouth, so the damage to the infrastructure's one thing the damage to bridges and roads but the damage to the crops is really the biggest concern, and the damage to those food sources. These were communities that were already under some stress because of drought conditions, but this is going to add a whole new layer of stress."

The New Zealand MetService says the cyclone will most likely bypass Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

"We expect it in the coming hours this morning to turn southwest and then southwards and start drifting southwards in the general direction of New Zealand," says meteorologist Mark Todd.

"It will be a number of days still if it is going to affect us but the key point to note at this stage is that there is a lot of uncertainty about what direction Winston is going to take."

Air New Zealand says it will resume flights to and from the city of Nadi today, after they were cancelled at the weekend.

Newshub / NZN