Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston was the strongest cyclone to ever hit Fiji and, judging by maximum wind speed, one of the strongest to ever hit land in the world. It struck the two largest islands and numerous smaller islands, to some extent affecting up to 90% of the population of roughly 900,000 people.
21 deaths have been confirmed, 7 people are reported missing, but not all areas of Fiji have communicated.
Working with Government, UNICEF has provided WASH supplies for 3,000 people and education supplies for 995 children for distribution through the assessment and relief mission to the Lomaviti group of islands starting on 22 February.
Flood warnings are in place across the country, as river levels are still mounting. The Ba and Lautoka hospitals as well as many houses have been severely damaged. School has been cancelled for the week and some schools are in use as evacuation centres.
Over 8,000 people are in evacuation centres, with many more with friends, relatives or in other non-official displacement sites.
UNICEF Pacific is initially appealing for the full amount of USD 5 million in its Humanitarian Action for Children 2016 humanitarian appeal. This will be used for water, sanitation, hygiene, education, child protection, maternal and child health and nutrition, all according to Government’s priorities and requests.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
On 19 through 21 February, Tropical Cyclone Winston went straight through Fiji from west to east as a Category 5 system, with winds of 230 kmph, gusting up to 325 kmph. It struck the two largest and most populated islands and affected up to 90% of the population of Fiji to some degree. On 22 February, flood warnings remain in force for people living near the Wainibuka and Rewa Rivers. 21 deaths, 12 persons seriously injured and seven missing persons have been officially confirmed, but not all villages have reported or been reached with any communication. Aerial images show that some villages have been completely destroyed. Communication with the worst affected areas is still not possible. There are initial reports of serious damage and destruction of schools, clinics and two hospitals. Over 750 evacuation centres were operationalized and are currently accommodating at least 8,226 people, with other people believed to be with friends, relatives or in unofficial shelters. Many of the evacuation centres are schools, and school has been cancelled this week.
Damage to telecommunications networks, roads, bridges, airstrips and port facilities is constraining access of Government authorities in conducting assessments. Fiji’s two largest islands and many other islands are largely without electricity and many areas have no water supply. In addition to the damage to homes, schools and medical facilities, many people’s household items, food supplies and livelihoods (including agriculture, fisheries and tourism) will have been badly affected.
As always, the most economically disadvantaged people in or near the Cyclone’s path are the worst affected as they are more likely to live in dwellings made from weaker materials in higher risk areas (such as areas prone to flooding) and will have fewer safe water, food and financial reserves to draw upon in the coming days and weeks.