42 killed in Cyclone Winston in Fiji


Bangkok, Feb 24 (IANS) At least 42 people were killed and more than 19,000 were evacuated as tropical cyclone Winston, of category 5, hit Fiji, the media reported on Wednesday.

The Fijian government was working to restore normalcy in the country after the cyclone also left 89 people injured and one person missing, Efe news agency reported.

Minister for Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu said the official casualty figures will rise further when the authorities will be able to access the areas most affected by the cyclone.

The cyclone struck the country last weekend with sustained wind speeds of 230 kmph (143 mph) and gusts of up to 325 kmph (202 mph).

“Although the worst of the storm has now passed, Winston has left a terrible trail of destruction,” said Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

“The need is great and urgent… the reconstruction process will take time. Perhaps a long time. Nearly nowhere has been spared of the scars,” said Bainimarama.

Fiji has a population of about 810,000 people, 87 percent of whom live on the islands of Viti Levu (west) and Vanua Levu (north).

Meanwhile, the Emergency Operation Centre reported that there were around 19,290 persons in the evacuation centres.

Aerial photographs taken by the military aircraft of New Zealand, offering support to the Fiji government, show entire villages wiped out by the cyclone.