Super cyclone hits Fiji, kills 17

Cyclone Winston slams into Fiji with wind speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, kills 17

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Workers from Suva's City Council clean up debris along the seawall in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston in Fiji's capital, February 22, 2016.

The most powerful storms recorded on Monday in Fiji’s history in the southern hemisphere tore through the Pacific island nation and killed 17 people.

Cyclone Winston hit remote villages, cutting off communications. Nearly 900,000 people live in tin shacks, so aid agencies warned of a widespread health crisis.

Almost 8,000 people remained hunkered down in hundreds of evacuation centres across Fiji where they had headed before tropical cyclone Winston hit late on Saturday with winds of up to 200 miles per hour.

"The death toll from Cyclone Winston continues to rise and reports of widespread damage are coming in from across Fiji," said New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

"It is clear that Fiji faces a major cleanup and recovery operation."

Also McCully added that the New Zealand Defence Force C-130 would leave for the Fijian capital, Suva, with its emergency response team.

A 36-hour curfew was lifted early on Monday as the Fijian military began to reach more remote parts of the archipelago of about 300 islands.

"The Fijians are desperately trying to repair severed lines of communication, but they hold grave fears that the news waiting for them will be dire," said Raijeli Nicole, Pacific regional director of aid group Oxfam.

"Given the intensity of the storm and the images we have seen so far, there are strong concerns that the death toll won't stop climbing today and that hundreds of people will have seen their homes and livelihoods completely destroyed."

Food and water supplies are a growing concern, even for areas such as Suva that did not suffer as much damage as the more remote regions.

TRTWorld, Reuters