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Worst cyclone to ever hit Fiji cuts power, water, and communication

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[Photo courtesy of NASA]

Fiji in the dark following Cyclone Winston.

February 22, 2016 | Suva, Fiji | Braden Blyde, ADRA New Zealand

Twenty-four hours after Cyclone Winston smashed Fiji the full picture of the destruction remains unknown.

Power, water, communication, roads and other vital infrastructure remain cut and many parts of the country, including the regions likely hardest hit by the Category 5 storm, are not contactable. The official death toll has risen to five.

“From my experience this is the worst cyclone ever to hit Fiji,” said Iliapi Tuai, country director for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Fiji. “It was a big one. It was a frightening night. There is still no power or water here in Suva and we’re not expecting it back until Tuesday.”

“Without power we cannot pump water. Without power there is no communication to the remote areas and outlying islands. This is the big issue right now.”

The situation could be much worse in northern regions of Viti Levu and the exact details may not be known for days.

With communications down government assessments are being carried out on ground. A task made difficult by downed powerlines and trees.

Key roads remain closed from Nadi through Lautoka to the north and across the northern coast of Viti Levu to Rakiraki. The roads south from Nadi to Singatoka are also closed.

“We are working closely with the government to ensure help is given where it is need most as quickly as possible,” said Mr Tuwai.

“It appears that jetties on some of the outlying areas have also been destroyed. This will make reaching and assessing the impact there difficult.”

The jetty at Savusavu, the main town on the island of Vanua Levu has been confirmed as destroyed.

Access to clean water and sanitation, shelter and food are likely to be the most pressing needs across the country. The destructive winds and wide-spread flooding may also lead to food shortages in the coming months.

Before landfall more than 750 evacuation centers were established, including Adventist schools and churches across the country. It remains unclear how many people remain and what damage may have been sustained.

Without power supply accessing stored fuel may also be difficult, potentially hampering relief efforts in the coming days.

The Fiji MET service is closely monitoring the path of Cyclone Winston, with some fearing it may return for a second pass through the island nation.

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