A powerful category-five tropical cyclone on Saturday was hunkering down Fiji’s outer islands with hurricane-force winds of 300km per hour.
Cyclone Winston was forecast to pass between the two main populated islands overnight. Authorities canceled all flights in and out of the country and were urging people to secure their homes and not venture outside.
Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama wrote on Facebook Saturday that the island's evacuation centers were operational and the government was prepared to deal with a potential crisis.
"As a nation, we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind," he wrote. "We must stick together as a people and look after each other."
Very rough winds in Taveuni at 9.20am Saturday 20 February 2016. I think it will get worse than this.
Posted by Delailovu Vat on Friday, 19 February 2016
Many people were hoping the cyclone's path would remain as forecast and thread between the islands of Vanua Levu to the north and Vitu Levu to the south, which is home to the capital Suva, so that both islands would avoid a direct hit.
It is the strongest storm on record to make a direct hit on the main islands, which are home to a majority of Fiji's 900,000 people.