Fiji: images of flattened villages indicate brutal force-out of Cyclone Winston

Death roll rises to 18 as emergency renders are deployed to communities worst-hit by strongest cyclone ever recorded in the region

The death toll from a ferocious tornado which tore through Fiji over the weekend has risen to 18 as authorities began to get a comprehend on the scale of the disaster and deploy aid to hard-hit outer islands.

Authorities were still be very difficult communicating with some areas, including places like Koro Island, which suffered some of the worst injury. More than 6,000 residents across Fiji were staying in emergency shelters after their homes were destroyed or swamped by tidal surges.

Winds from Cyclone Winston, which tore through Fiji over the weekend, reached 177 mph( 285 kph ), inducing it the strongest cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere since record-keeping began, according to the Weather Underground website.

Getting emergency supplies to the groups far-flung islands and remote communities was the governments top priority told Ewan Perrin, Fijis permanent secretary for communications. Home to 900,000 people, Fiji has more than 100 inhabited islands.

The logistics of get renders and equipment to remote communities is difficult, he told. Some have lost their jetties and its uncertain if airstrips are able to be landed on.

Perrin told authorities were sending a ship to Koro Island filled with medical renders, food and water. He told crews on the boat would construct temporary shelters for those people on the island whose homes had been destroyed.

UNICEF Pacific (@ UNICEFPacific) February 21, 2016

Communities destroyed by #TCWinston on Koro Is. Pic by Fiji/ NZ Govt aerial surveillance. FCslhEK8Jh

Perrin said the electricity network across Fiji remained patchy, and in some cases power had been deliberately cut to prevent further injury. He told ensuring clean water for tornado survivors was also a challenge, and people were being asked to boil their water, treat it with chemicals or drink bottled water.

Phone communications had been restored in many areas but in other areas the damage was severe and would take longer to fix, he said.

Perrin told Fijians were taking the disaster in stride.

The people here are fairly resilient and theyre accustomed to these things happening, he told. Most are running about their business or helping clean up. Theres been a very well-coordinated disaster response and were deploying quickly.

Jacquee Speight (@ JacqueeSpeight) February 21, 2016

Aerial shootings by NZ Defense airforce. Koro, Lau, Taveuni! Dear Lord bless the all! #Fiji #TCWinstonAftermath CYBGbz0t 3q

Perrin told most of the people who died in the tornado were hit by flying debris or were in builds which collapsed. A handful of people had also been hospitalized with severe traumata, he said.

Fijians were finally able to venture outside on Monday after authorities lifted a curfew that had been imposed on Saturday evening. A 30 -day declaration of a state of natural disaster remains in effect, giving police extraordinary powers.

The damage has been widespread, homes have been destroyed, many low-lying areas have inundated, and many people have been left stunned and confused about what to do, told prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama in a televised address to the nation.

He said that the police and military had been brought in to help with rescue operations and the general cleanup, and that government agencies were working overtime to clear roads and restore power.

This is a time of regret, but it will also be a hour of action, Bainimarama told. We will stand united in the face of this disaster.


Damage in the village of Namacu on the main Fiji island of Viti Levu after the most powerful tornado in Fijis history battered the Pacific island nation. Photo: –/ AFP/ Getty Images

Tourism minister Faiyaz Siddiq Koya said that all tourists in Fiji were safe and that there was no significant damage to the majority of hotels on the main island. Fiji is a popular tourist destination, known for its palm-fringed beach resorts and scuba diving.

Cyclone Winston reached Fiji on Saturday and moved westward overnight along the northern coast of Viti Levu. Fijis capital, Suva, located in the southern part of the main island, was not directly in the hurricanes track and avoided the worst of its destructive power.

Authorities said that all schools would be closed for a week to allow time for the cleanup, and that three universities would be closed until farther notice.

The main international airport on Viti Levu has been reopened.

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