Cyclone Winston, thought to be one of the strongest storms to hit the Southern Hemisphere, has caused, so far, 49 deaths and has left 8,500 people sheltering in evacuation centers. The powerful cyclone, which struck this past Saturday night, brought winds of over 320km/h (200mph), torrential rain and waves of up to 12m (40ft), flattening many buildings in parts of the main Viti Levu island and Koro islands, Fijian officials said. It is the worst storm to ever hit the country.
Fiji, is an archipelago collectively about the size of New Jersey. It lies in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,800 miles from Australia’s east coast. Most of the nation’s 900,000 residents live on one of two main islands: Viti Levu or Vanua Levu. However, the nation is comprised of more than 100 inhabited islands.
“It is likely that smaller villages across Fiji will have suffered the most, given their infrastructures would be too weak to withstand the power of a category 5 cyclone,” said Suva resident Alice Clements, a spokeswoman for UNICEF in the Pacific.
Fortunately, Foreign aid is pouring in from Australia, New Zealand, India and the European Union, and aid agencies. The main airport has reopened to receive humanitarian supplies and allow tourists to leave.
I have been in contact with many of ICAS’ colleagues in Suva. Most importantly, all have reported to me that they and their families are safe and sound. Some are even heading to the west of the island to help with recovery efforts. Additionally, it appears that their archives have received very little to no damage, as Suva was not directly hit by the storm. However, everything will remain closed for the rest of the week, as many parts of the city are without water and electricity.
If you would like to help, there are several organizations that you can donate to. They should be able to handle international donations:
Let’s keep the people of Fiji in our thoughts and prayers. If any new information becomes available, I will definitely pass it on.