Rescuers are battling through downed power pylons and flooding after one of the most powerful storms in the southern hemisphere struck Fiji, killing at least five people.
Remote villages were flattened after harsh winds and torrential rains swept through the tiny Pacific island nation of 900,000 people, Reuters reports.
The capital Suva escaped the brunt of the storm at the last minute when it changed course.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama confirmed the death toll and declared a 30-day state of emergency, with schools ordered to shut and a nationwide curfew extended until Monday morning.
“When we are able we will provide timelines for the return of water and power,” he said, adding that electricity supply to some areas had been deliberately cut to avert further damage.
The archipelago of about 300 islands was hit late on Saturday by tropical cyclone Winston, which packed winds of 230 kph that gusted up to 325 kph.
Businessman Jay Dayal, who lives near Rakiraki, on the north coast of Fiji’s main island where the cyclone hit land, said the storm damage was extensive.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if people are now starting to go without food,” Dayal told Reuters.
“It looks like a different country, it doesn’t look like Fiji.”
Humanitarian agencies warned Fiji may be facing a potential health crisis, mainly due to the lack of electricity. Low-lying river areas where hundreds of people live in tin sheds are also particularly vulnerable, aid workers said.
– Contact us at [email protected]