UPDATES: Fiji confirms 42 dead, declares state of emergency as Cyclone Winston tracks back south

UPDATED Wednesday 24 at 11am: Forty Two people have died and thousands of Fijians have been driven out of their homes by Cyclone Winston.

Fiji Times said the death toll for Tropical Cyclone Winston is now 42.

It quoted Fijiʻs Minister for National Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu as just confirming the number in a press conference.

The minister said  one  person and a 10-month-old baby is still missing in Koro.

Trimes said the “baby’s father was running for cover during the height of the cyclone on Saturday however the baby fell down and was swept away by strong currents”.

The death toll is expected to increase further, it said.

The government of Fijian Prime Minister  Frank Voreqe Bainimarama has declared a 30-day state of emergency amid concerns of flash flooding and mudslides.

The category five cyclone hit the Pacific archipelago late February 20.

Winston was expected to curve back on its path tonight and is likely to move near the same direction it was a week ago before it swung north of New Zealand and turned towards Tonga.

MetService New Zealand said today there was a low probability of Winston touching New Zealand by next weekend.

The forecast track is considered the most likely based on the information available at time of analysis, and there may be other possible future tracks. Source: Fiji Met Service on Tuesday, February 23 at 7.34pm

The Republic of Fiji Military Forces mobilised its personnel and recalled staff from leave to help with a massive clean-up operation.

This morning, Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office reported widespread devastation.

At least seven outlying islands suffered severe damage and there are fears for the safety of those living in remote areas.

“Some villages have reported that all homes have been destroyed,” Jone Tuiipelehaki, a communications officer for the UN Development Programme, tweeted on Saturday evening.

“50 homes have been reported destroyed in Navaga village in Koro Island.”

Taveuni
An image in Tavua, Northern, Fiji taken by the NZ Defence Airforce after Cyclone Winston. Photo/Fijian Government

In Tonga, Cyclone Winston affected about 230 homes in Vava’u and trees and crops were extensively damaged before it veered away and hit Fiji.

The cyclone struck the Vavaʻu group on Tuesday. It continued north before making a U-turn and slamming into the group again  on Friday.

As this story was being written, some residents in Neiafu were still without electricity and water.

Cyclone Winston remains at Category 5 and is moving west away from the main island of Viti Levu, Weather Watch New Zealand said this afternoon.

The cyclone has generated winds of 230kmh with gusts to 325kmh, according to Fiji Met.

Winston is the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall in Fiji, with winds of 290kmh.

Tonga Met Service said this afternoon Cyclone Winston was located south east of the kingdom and moving west at 25kmh. Meanwhile, a slow moving trough lies between Vava’u and the Niuas.

The main points

  • Five people have died and thousands of Fijians have been driven out of their homes by Cyclone Winston.
  • The government of Fijian Prime Minister Voreque Bainimarama has declared a 30-day state of emergency amid concerns of flash flooding and mudslides.
  • The category five cyclone hit the Pacific archipelago late yesterday (February 20).
  • In Tonga, Cyclone Winston affected about 230 homes in Vava’u and trees and crops were extensively damaged before it veered away and hit Fiji.
  • The cyclone struck the Vavaʻu group on Tuesday. It continued north before making a U-turn and slamming into the group again on Friday.

For more information

Cyclone Winston: Fiji counts deaths and damage from giant storm (The Guardian – with video)

Winston the strongest, first Category 5 cyclone to hit Fiji (Fiji Times)

Essential cyclone information for Fiji (RNZI)

Cyclone Winston his Vava’u

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