Fiji

Ferocious Cyclone Winston tears through Fiji

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As the scale of devastation wrought by Cyclone Winston in Fiji becomes apparent today,Oxfam is preparing to deploy emergency staff to assist staff already on the ground, in what is likely one of the worst cyclones ever seen in the Pacific region.

Oxfam's regional director for the Pacific, Raijeli Nicole, based in Suva, reported flooding and 'terrifying winds'.

"It's very unnerving sitting in your house and hearing trees fall and crash all around you," Nicole said.

"Many people outside the main urban centres live in simple structures, so there are fears the damage is likely to be significant right across Fiji. I'm in a stronger house, but we're deeply concerned about the many others, in traditional housing.

"We'll start to get a picture today of what Fiji has to deal with, and how we can best help."

Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier said the cyclone could be devastating for Fiji. "As the picture in Fiji becomes clearer and the critical needs are assessed we'll decide whether we need to help with the supply of clean water and sanitation or food security - or both.

“We know from experience that water and hygiene is often one of the greatest needs. Life threatening disease can spread quickly in the aftermath of disasters, like malaria and typhoid, spurring a second disaster for affected communities. Oxfam is there to help with whatever is most needed.

"This disaster is in our neighbourhood. Reports are still filtering in, but this is a crucial time to support our Fijian neighbours," said Le Mesurier.

At its centre, Cyclone Winston was generating gusts of up to 325kph, with average winds of 230kph.

The Fijian Government has declared a state of natural disaster, and issued a curfew for the whole of Fiji, taking effect from 6pm Saturday local time.