McCully: NZ ready to assist Fiji

  • 21/02/2016

New Zealand has released its first wave of aid to Fiji, where at least one person is dead and entire villages are feared destroyed after the worst tropical cyclone in the country's history.

Fiji declared a state of emergency and a curfew as category five Cyclone Winston made landfall late on Saturday, delivering gusts as high as 325km/h at peaks.

Winds had eased in most places as the storm passed to the west on Sunday morning, although rain is expected to persist.

"The scale of the destruction is absolutely massive and it's still far too early to tell just how many people's homes and livelihoods have been devastated by this storm," Red Cross aid worker Susan Slattery said from Suva.

She said workers were clearing powerlines first before turning their attention to finding people food, shelter and clean water.


Foreign Minister Murray McCully has announced an airforce plane had left New Zealand on Sunday to assist with aerial damage surveillance.

He said the government had also made $50,000 available to the High Commission in Fiji for the emergency response and the release of $170,000 of supplies through aid workers had been authorised.

"It is clear that further support will be required and we will be working with the local authorities over the coming days to determine how we can best assist," Mr McCully said.

A spokesman from Fiji's national disaster unit, Vatia Vasuca, told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation an elderly man had been killed during a roof collapse on the island of Koro.

"Some villages have reported that all homes have been destroyed," Jone Tuiipelehaki of the United Nations Development Program tweeted late on Saturday.

"Fifty homes have been reported destroyed in the Navaga village in Koro Island."

Power, water and communications services have been cut across much of the country of almost 900,000 people.

The Fijian government has declared a 30-day state of emergency amid concerns of flash flooding and mudslides.

Speaking from Suva on Saturday evening, UNICEF worker Alice Clements described a scene of downed banana trees, howling winds and the "ominous" sounds of corrugated iron lifting on some of the roofs.

Despite passing Fiji, the storm is still a category five and is expected to move southwest later on Sunday, Weatherwatch said.

It said New Zealand could experience some remnants of Winston at the end of the coming week, but that it was difficulty to predict.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it has upgraded its risk advisory for Fiji to "high risk".

There were 310 New Zealanders registered as being in the country, according to MFAT.

Air New Zealand has cancelled flights in and out of Nadi on Sunday and will review other flights later in the day.

The ministry is asking anyone with family in Fiji to try to make direct contact before getting in touch with Foreign Affairs if there is ongoing concern.

Cyclone Winston last week twice hammered outlying islands in nearby Tonga.