Pacific Island Nation Fiji Slammed by Destructive Cyclone

fiji-cyclone

A severe tropical cyclone packing “very destructive winds” up to 177 mph made landfall on the island of Viti Levu in Fiji early Sunday as the Pacific island nation hunkered down for heavy rain, thunderstorms and widespread sea flooding.

The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center said gusts from Cyclone Winston were reaching 224 mph.

“As a nation, we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind,” Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama wrote on Facebook. “We must stick together as a people and look after each other.”

Fiji, with a population of around 860,000 people, is located about 2,700 miles east of Australia between the island nations of Vanuatu and Tonga.

Cyclone Winston was threading its way between the two main populated islands of Vanua Levu to the north and Vitu Levu to the South, which is home to the capital Suva.

The Fiji Meteorological Service warned residents of northwestern Viti Levu to expect “very destructive hurricane force winds.”

The Nadi weather service reported near midnight local time that the eye of the cyclone was slowing down and moving away from Fiji and would be reduced to storm winds in the next few hours, according to senior forecaster Amit Singh, the Fiji Times reports.

Many domestic and international flights had been canceled. Authorities were urging people to secure their homes and not venture outside.

Bainimarama said the island’s evacuation centers were operational and the government was prepared to deal with a potential crisis but expressed concern that some people in the cities weren’t taking the threat seriously enough.

The Fiji Times newspaper reported some damage, including a roof being blown off one home, from some of the nation’s smaller islands to the east as the cyclone began to strike there.

The Times said there had been a run on supermarkets and stores as people stocked up on essential supplies and that a 5 p.m. curfew had been placed on all public transportation, including buses, minibuses and taxis.

SOURCE: Doug Stanglin
USA TODAY