Death toll from Fiji cyclone hits 18 as aid sent to islands

A man sits in the remains of his home after the cyclone. Picture: AFP/Getty
A man sits in the remains of his home after the cyclone. Picture: AFP/Getty
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The death toll from a cyclone which tore through Fiji over the weekend has risen to 18 as the authorities began to send aid to hard-hit outer islands.

They were still having trouble communicating with some islands, including places like Koro Island which suffered some of the worst damage.

And more than 6,000 residents across Fiji were staying in emergency shelters after their homes were broken or swamped.

Winds from Cyclone Winston, which tore through Fiji over the weekend, reached 177mph, making it the strongest storm in the Southern Hemisphere since record-keeping began.

Getting emergency supplies to Fiji’s far-flung islands and remote communities was the government’s top priority said Ewan Perrin, the permanent secretary for communications.

Fiji is home to 900,000 people, and has more than 100 inhabited islands.

“The logistics of getting supplies and equipment to remote communities is difficult,” he said.

“Some have lost their jetties and it’s uncertain if airstrips are able to be landed on.”

Mr Perrin said the authorities were sending a vessel to Koro Island filled with medical supplies, food and water. He said the electricity network across Fiji remained patchy, and in some cases power had been deliberately cut to prevent further damage.

Mr Perrin said clean water was also a challenge, and people were being asked to boil their water, treat it with chemicals or drink bottled water, but Fijians were taking the disaster in stride. He added: “Most are going about their business or helping clean up. There’s been a very well-co-ordinated disaster response and we’re deploying quickly.”

Mr Perrin said most of the people who died in the cyclone were hit by flying debris or were in buildings which collapsed.