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Cyclone Winston toll rises to 18 as Fiji scrambles to send aid

22 February 2016 10:58


The death toll from the record-breaking storm in Fiji has risen to 18 as authorities launch a clean-up of the Pacific island-nation.

Ewan Perrin, Fiji’s permanent secretary for communications, said authorities on Monday sent an aid vessel to Koro Island, Fiji’s seventh-largest island. The official added that the crew would build temporary shelters for the affected people.

Cyclone Winston, which is believed to be the strongest recorded storm in the Southern Hemisphere, struck Fiji late on Saturday, with winds gusting up to 177 miles (285 kilometers) per hour.

Perrin stressed that the government’s top priority was deploying emergency supplies to the far-flung islands and remote communities, adding that the process is “difficult.”

Most of the people who died in the cyclone were hit by flying debris or were in buildings that collapsed, Perrin said.

Large parts of Fiji have also been left without power, communications and water. More than 6,000 residents across the country were staying in emergency shelters after their homes were damaged or swamped.

Authorities on Monday lifted a curfew that had been imposed on Saturday evening and the main international airport on Viti Levu has reopened.

However, a 30-day declaration of a state of natural disaster remains in effect, giving police extraordinary powers.

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