Fiji

Fiji lashed by its strongest ever tropical cyclone

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As Cyclone Winston moves away from Fiji, Red Cross teams are assessing the damage and supporting thousands of people in evacuation centres.

Cyclone Winston has left Fiji in a state of emergency after lashing the country with 230kph winds and intense rain.

The cyclone made landfall on the Northern Lau Islands in Fiji's east on 19 February. Communications with these islands have been lost.

While Fiji's major cities of Suva or Nadi were not directly hit, gale-force winds, flash floods and power outages will continue over the coming days.

Fiji Red Cross was well prepared for Cyclone Winston, and is now working closely with the Fiji Government to respond. Red Cross teams are in evacuation centres where they are registering families as they arrive, providing first aid, distributing relief items and tracing missing people.

"The scale of the destruction is absolutely massive and it's still far too early to tell just how many people's homes and livelihoods have been devastated by this storm," Australian Red Cross aid worker Susan Slattery reported to Channel Nine News.

"That will become much clearer over the next 24 hours and our first priority is to make sure people are safe and have the short-term assistance they need."

The wild winds and waves may prevent emergency response teams from reaching some remote areas for a few days. Across the country, emergency shelter and safe drinking water are likely to be high priorities.

Meanwhile, people in Tonga's Vava'u and Ha'apai islands are now leaving evacuation centres and those who have lost their homes are sheltering with relatives and neighbours.