Fiji doctor predicts disease outbreak after Winston

Fiji doctor predicts disease outbreak after Winston

An emergency doctor on Fiji's devastated Koro Island says his team is anticipating an outbreak of typhoid and other infectious diseases in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston.

Koro is made up of 14 separate villages. Most of them have been completely wiped out.

Residents there describe a tidal wave smashing into the coast as the storm hit.

Through the blown-out windows of his building, the doctor attends to his patients. Dozens are lining up with broken bones and cuts, all with stories of their homes collapsing in the storm.

"My son and my daughter, I protect them, with my arms. I protect them like that, and the wall bang on my arm. The wall bang on my arm," says cyclone victim Alisi Ranadi.

This was never intended to be an emergency triage centre. But when there's little left standing, you work with what got.

"I would describe this as a health crisis, a national crisis. Dealing with the injuries is just the first phase. It's what comes next that worries doctors most," says Koro Island medical officer Dr Ravneil Singh.

Water sources are contaminated and hundreds are crowded together in temporary shelters.

"Infectious diseases will be common for the next few weeks. We are sure to see acute gastroenteritis in children, maybe even typhoid fever," says Dr Singh.

When we arrived here a police officer told me, "Welcome to ground zero," and it's easy to see why he said that. Every single home and village has been affected. Many have been completely wiped out.

From the air, the widespread nature of the damage is clear.

It wasn't just the wind people had to contend with; the real terror came when the massive waves hit the coastline. Residents describe it as a tsunami.

"There's about, say, 10-15-metre-high wave, which comes over and picks up the houses and through it on the side you know," says Eroni Delai.

He says his family had to swim to escape.

"They have to because you can understand what a tidal wave is like," he says.

Friendship is helping people cope. It's what they must now rely on.

And amid such chaos, there are some welcome distractions – a donated rugby ball, a game, and laughter.