Child pulled from mother's grip in Cyclone Winston

Child pulled from mother's grip in Cyclone Winston

A tragic story has emerged from one of Fiji's outlying islands in the wake of Cyclone Winston.

A mother has described how her four-year-old daughter was torn from her hands as a 10-metre wave crashed over them.

Akesa Dawai lived in a village on the island of Koro, one of the first atolls to feel the fury of Cyclone Winston, where the government describes the damage as catastrophic.

"We were holding hands and the wave came. And it separated us apart, myself and my daughter. And I heard her calling, 'mum', but I couldn't do anything," Ms Dawai says.

She managed to get to safety up in the hills, but is haunted by the moment she lost grip of her girl.

"It was a very painful moment [knowing that I couldn't save her]," she says.

In her village alone, four others were killed. Nine others were killed on Koro.

The scale of the devastation there is truly heartbreaking.

Ms Dawai has spent the past six days searching through debris for her daughter. Her body is yet to be found.

She's now staying with the hundreds of other families in tents and temporary shelters.

"It's very hard. Every time, every second, I am thinking of her. I think of her so much," Ms Dawai says. "At night time I can't sleep. I'm just thinking of her."

Ms Dawai doesn't know what she'll do next. A rebuild is simply too hard to comprehend, but she takes comfort knowing she has support of many others.

There are 97 government personnel on Koro now and people who were seriously injured have been airlifted to hospital in Suva.

Eighty-five evacuation centres are open, with 103 of those being schools, mostly in the west. There are over 59,000 refugees, according to permanent secretary of communications for the Fijian government Ewan Perrin.

Shelters have been made, food, water and medical supplies have been distributed.

Communications are still patchy in remote areas, and are hampered by power restoration issues.

All tourist resorts at Denarau are open and most around the country are operating.

Back in New Zealand, donations, including chemical toilets from the Canterbury earthquake, are flooding in to help families and homes left devastated by the cyclone.

In Christchurch, boxes of bedding and clothes, food and water have been donated to help Fijian families in desperate need.

A shipping container will be filled with the donated items and leave on Monday for the cyclone-hit islands.


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