Cyclone Winston, Fiji: UNICEF eyewitness update

 

Cyclone Winston, Fiji: UNICEF eyewitness update

On 21 February 2016, scenes of Tropical Cyclone Winston's destruction in Tamavua, Suva, Fiji. Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji on Saturday (20 Feb), continuing its path of destruction into Sunday.  A state of natural disaster and a nationwide curfew had been declared by the Government of Fiji earlier in the evening. Flights in and out of Fiji were also cancelled due to the extreme weather. Power lines are down and communications are limited but UNICEF Pacific Communications Specialist and New Zealander, Alice Clements, has said from her Suva base, "We certainly felt the impact of TC Winston in Suva with destructive, howling winds and the sound of rivets lifting from roofs a constant throughout the night.   We can't say for sure yet how the rest of the country fared but rapid assessments will be undertaken by the Fiji Government to determine the full impact and what response will be required.   It is likely that smaller villages across Fiji will have suffered the most, given their infrastructures would be too weak to withstand the power of a category 5 cyclone. Families may have lost their homes and crops therefore leaving them without shelter, food and a livelihood. Those families will have lost everything. There is also considerable risk for those that live by the sea or rivers as flash flooding and river flooding could occur due to heavy rains. The reiteration of preparedness messages from all sectors of society certainly ensured people were informed and as prepared as they could be.Ó UNICEF is a member of the Pacific Humanitarian Team and will be on standby to provide emergency supplies and additional personnel, if required.  UNICEF has prepositioned supplies in Suva and Nadi including water kits, health kits and education materials such as school tents.  If called on to assist, UNICEF will actively support the Fiji Government in leading clusters of agencies working in water and sanitation, education and nutrition, and in child protectio

© UNICEF/UN010614/Clements – A scene of Tropical Cyclone Winston’s destruction in Tamavua, Suva, Fiji. Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji on Saturday (20 Feb), continuing its path of destruction into Sunday.

NEW YORK/ HONG KONG, 21 February, 2016 – In the wake of Cyclone Winston, UNICEF’s main concern is for children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers across Fiji. Little is yet known about the status of communities living on the outer islands of Fiji that were directly under the eye of Tropical Cyclone Winston- as communications remain down for many.

The Government is rapidly working to assess the overall situation in order to pinpoint the critical needs. The Fijian Government has declared a state of natural disaster for the next 30 days and has initiated the clean-up process by clearing the huge amounts of debris scattered everywhere.

Alice Clements, a Communications Specialist with UNICEF Pacific, said from her base in Suva, Fiji, “The amount of destruction to infrastructure, livelihoods and homes that something like this can do is just immense. It can also completely destroy or severely damage school facilities and health facilities.

“Imagine the situation of a family that lives low near a river in a tin shack. They have crops that they grow and depend on to survive. It’s very possible that a cyclone has destroyed those through water logging. Those same crops are ones that they would sell at the market to make some income. So if their house has been destroyed from flash flooding from the nearby river, then that leaves no food, no home, and no livelihood. It’s likely too that children’s educations will be affected by these family setbacks.

“If we are talking about a worst case scenario, in addition to injuries and loss of life, you have a situation where peoples entire lives, top to bottom, have been turned upside down.”

UNICEF staff members are standing by to assist as required.