A STATE of disaster remains in place in Fiji after being hit by Cyclone Winston, described as the strongest storm in the southern hemisphere since record-keeping began.
The death toll continues to climb with more than 40 dead this week.
Last week rescue workers reached remote islands to find entire villages destroyed.
The cyclone also wreaked havoc on the Tongan islands of Vava’u and Ha’apai, where more than 2500 people were evacuated.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said many people had been left without power, fresh water or communications.
“The damage has been widespread, homes have been destroyed, many low-lying areas have flooded, and many people have been left stunned and confused about what to do,” he said.
The UN humanitarian agency UNOCHA reported many hundreds of homes destroyed.
“The scale of damage from TC Winston across Fiji is devastating,” the agency’s Danielle Parry said.
The Fijian government quickly declared all tourists in Fiji were safe and that most hotels on the main island escaped major damage.
Nadi International Airport reopened allowing an estimated 1300 Australian tourists access to international flights.
Cyclone Winston, a Category 5 storm, generated wind gusts of up to 33okmph.
Caritas responded to calls for emergency relief in both Tonga and Fiji.
“Winston has left behind extensive damage to homes, public offices, businesses, trees, crops, roads, electricity lines, telephones and bridges,” Archdiocese of Suva’s Justice and Development director Iosefo Nainima said.
“Most of the villages along its path are completely destroyed with sea walls washed away. The most immediate needs would be tarpaulin, blankets, food, farming equipment and seedlings for vegetables.”
Caritas Australia’s partner Peoples Community Network (PCN) in Fiji, has worked in informal settlements where many of the poorest and most marginalised have been affected.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all the communities, friends and partners in Fiji and the region where the tropical Cyclone Winston has made landfall,” Caritas Australia’s Pacific programs manager Stephanie Lalor said.
“We remain in close contact with our partner organisations on the ground, ready to provide support where necessary.
“We are encouraging our supporters to raise funds for our current Project Compassion Lenten Appeal which helps vulnerable Pacific communities such as Tonga and Fiji respond to emergencies, build back stronger and prepare for future disasters.”
By Mark Bowling