Fallout from Cyclone Winston still threat to Fiji

A passerby in Nadi town, which is now closed to all motorists and the public - posted by the Fijian Government (Facebook)
A passerby in Nadi town, which is now closed to all motorists and the public - posted by the Fijian Government (Facebook)

Fiji is working through the damage of deadly category five Cyclone Winston, which has killed at least five people. A curfew is still in place and schools have been told to close for a week as the facilities are used for emergency accommodation.

Heavy rain still poses a threat as Fiji feels the fallout from the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. An emergency declaration there will last 30 days.

The damage from the cyclone is estimated at more than FJ$220 million (NZ$154 million) -- more than Cyclone Evans in 2012 -- according to director of Fiji's National Disaster Management Office Akapusi Tuifagalele. Damage is the worst in the Northern Lau Archipelago, particularly the Vanua Balavu, Lakeba and Nayau Islands.

The Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) says the entire Viti Levu, Labasa and Levuka areas are without power supply from yesterday.

It says work to restore power supply will happen after repair works have been completed and the FEA sees it safe to switch on the power supply.

The FEA will give priorities to hospitals, water pumping stations and the central business district areas in all cities and towns, it says.

Nadi town was closed to all motorists and the public.

The Fiji Meteorlogical Service says most islands have cloudy periods with some showers, with temperatures ranging from low to high 20s.

Navau, Savusavu and Nabouwala are still expecting a few thunderstorms.

The storm is expected to avoid both Vanuatu and New Zealand.


The Fijian Government has declared a state of natural disaster, and has continued the issued curfew for the entire nation from 6pm last night. The curfew will be lifted at 5:30am tomorrow.

Fiji's Ministry of Education has directed all schools to close for one week to allow for cleaning up.

Vodafone says a large number of their cell sites have been damaged, resulting in reduced network coverage across Fiji. There are still calls and texts going through but volume is significantly reduced.

Vodafone says the team in Fiji are working hard to full assess damage and restore the network as quickly as possible.

However, Vodafone says call and texts credits made from 9am Saturday to Tuesday on New Zealand landlines or cellphones to Fiji will automatically be applied to customers' accounts on the next billing cycle.


Director of the National Disaster Management Mr Tuifagalele advises the public to restrict their movement and stay indoors. This is for safety reasons, as fallen trees and power lines need to be cleared and restored.

Alice Clements from UNICEF Pacific says aid organisations are working to help those families whose livelihoods have been destroyed.

"A family just lost their food, their home and their source of income. If the child's school has been damaged then that's another critical pillar of safety for them. So we need to make sure the families are supported at this time, especially the most vulnerable," says Ms Clements.

Fallout from Cyclone Winston still threat to Fiji

Nadi bus stand (Fijian Government)


An elderly man on Koro Island was the first victim. It's reported his house fell on him. The Fijian government has confirmed at least four others have died as a result of the cyclone, according to local news agency FBC. There have also been five confirmed injuries.

Three earthquakes have also struck in the Fiji region this morning, almost 500km southwest of Suva. The biggest was magnitude 5.8, but there is no reported danger of a tsunami.

Mother of three Angie Sunderline told her family she may not be able to contact them for a while after the cyclone hit.

"Sent a message to my mum saying goodbye, we love you, we will contact you soon, we're going to be brave because we were told to brace for the worst," she says.

And Matthew Karstunen, who's been holidaying in Fiji, says everyone in the hotel where he's staying was nervous.

"We were actually evacuated. An alarm went off in all of the rooms at about 10:30 local time and we were sent down to the ball room where the guests had to sleep there overnight so it was a little bit tense at times," he says.

There are fears entire villages have been wiped out; however, damage is not as bad as expected.

Some parts of the road at Urata village in Savusavu have been washed out due to the heavy downpour, according to the FBC.

Divisional Planning Officer Northern Alipate Bolalevu told FBC News it's difficult to cross because rocks are blocking the road.

Mr Bolalevu says a bus was washed inland by a strong tidal wave last night.

The FBC says reports have come in that yachts, electric poles and houses are the worst affected.

Fallout from Cyclone Winston still threat to Fiji

Tailevu (Red Cross Fiji)

Oxfam Pacific Regional Director Rajeli Nicole is worried the "terrifying winds" will threaten weak structures.

"Many people outside the main urban centres live in simple structures, so there are fears the damage is likely to be significant right across Fiji," she says.

New Zealand Red Cross has stocks of relief item available in Suva, such as tarpaulins, shelter tool kits, water cans, hygiene and cooking kits.

Spark announced today that it will temporarily credit its customers for the cost of landline and mobile calls and texts to Fiji.

The credit will apply to direct calls and text made from New Zealand home phones or mobile phones to Fiji from Saturday until midnight on Tuesday.

The credits will be retrospectively applied to customers' accounts in either their February or March bills.

Strong wind warnings remain in force for Fiji, and a damaging heavy swell warning remains in force for low-lying coastal areas. A heavy rain warning also remains in place.


Category five Cyclone Winston was located around 130km west-southwest of Viwa or 180km west of Nadi at 5am this morning.

The cyclone continues to move at 25km/h west, and was about 300km west of Nadi at 5pm today.

Fallout from Cyclone Winston still threat to Fiji

(Tulsi Cliver)

People in Viwa Island should be careful of heavy swells and sea flooding of low-lying areas.

For the rest of Fiji, strong winds with average speed of 50km/h and momentary gust of 75km/h are expected.

Winds are easing and becoming moderate to fresh from this afternoon, with occasional rain, heavy at times.

All Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways flights to and from Fiji have been cancelled today.

Oxfam's regional director for the Pacific Rajeli Nicole says it was frightening in Suva and it wasn't even among the worst-hit areas.

"Wind between 200km/h and 325km/h, so that gives you a sense if we think it was unnerving for us here in the capital then in the western side. It's unimaginable," she says.

Fallout from Cyclone Winston still threat to Fiji

(Tulsi Chivers)

Thousands of Fijians have been waking up in evacuation centres -- ready to survey the damage.

Alice Clements from Unicef has been working to make sure others could get to higher ground, in case of severe floods.

"What can be the most destructive and damaging in a cyclone is actually the threat of drowning. Storm surges can just bring immense damage; they're almost like a tsunami. The sea is being whipped up with incredible force by the wind. Rivers can flood very quickly so you can have flash flooding which can also be incredibly destructive," she says.

Tonga is also in clean-0up mode, after Cyclone Winston made landfall there.

Reports say about 230 homes have been destroyed, along with crops.