UNICEF Australia: Cat 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston rips through Fiji

Tropical Cyclone Winston over Fiji (Credit: NASA).

Fiji is reeling from one of the worst storms to hit the Pacific in 50 years, after Tropical Cyclone Winston tore across the country this weekend.

Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji on Saturday, February 20, continuing its path of destruction into Sunday, February 21.

A state of natural disaster and a nationwide curfew had been declared by the Government of Fiji earlier in the evening. Flights in and out of Fiji were also cancelled due to the extreme weather.

“TC Winston is reported to be the strongest storm in South Pacific history, potentially adversely affecting much of Fiji’s population,” said Alice Clements, Communications Specialist for UNICEF based in Suva, Fiji.

“UNICEF is standing by to respond as required, though the full extent of damage incurred will take time to evaluate. During and in the immediate aftermath of a disaster such as a cyclone, UNICEF’s first priority is to ensure the protection and wellbeing of the most vulnerable, including children and pregnant women.”

Power lines are down and communications are limited.

“We certainly felt the impact of TC Winston in Suva with destructive, howling winds and the sound of rivets lifting from roofs a constant throughout the night,” said Ms. Clements.

“We can’t say for sure yet how the rest of the country fared but rapid assessments will be undertaken by the Fiji Government to determine the full impact and what response will be required.

“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. Families may have lost their homes and crops therefore leaving them without shelter, food and a livelihood. Those families will have lost everything.

“There is also considerable risk for those that live by the sea or rivers as flash flooding and river flooding could occur due to heavy rains.

“The reiteration of preparedness messages from all sectors of society certainly ensured people were informed and as prepared as they could be.

“Just last week 25 teachers and senior officials from the Ministry of Education were trained by UNICEF as first assessors and responders so their training will immediately be put to use in response to TC Winston. This once again reiterates that preparedness does work and actions like this will help Fiji to recover together.”

UNICEF is a member of the Pacific Humanitarian Team and will be on standby to provide emergency supplies and additional personnel, if required.

UNICEF has prepositioned supplies in Suva and Nadi including water kits, health kits and education materials such as school tents.

If called on to assist, UNICEF will actively support the Fiji Government in leading clusters of agencies working in water and sanitation, education and nutrition, and in child protection.

Story Credit: UNICEF Australia.

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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