Super Cyclone Winston hits Fiji, leaving many dead and homeless

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This article was published in the printed version of the GIMUN Chronicles, the newspaper of GIMUN’s Annual Conference 2016, two months ago. Has Fiji had time to recover?


By Ashli Molina

Super-cyclone Winston, a category five storm, hit Fiji on Sunday, February 21, wiping out entire villages and leaving as many as 42 individuals dead. With winds blasts reaching 325km/h and waves up to 12m high, it has been described as the strongest cyclone in Fiji’s history.

The scale of the environmental disaster is not yet clear, but authorities said recovery could take months. The death toll has been confirmed by the government, but the number could continue to rise as humanitarian relief teams search remote communities.

“Forty-two Fijians now confirmed dead – disaster officials continue to deploy teams to help those affected across Fiji,” government spokesman Dan Gavidi tweeted on Wednesday, February 24.

Humanitarian aid has slowly begun to reach the Pacific island. Serepe Pela, a Nasau village resident told ABC News that “assistance was desperately needed.”

“They need their houses to be constructed. At present all houses were ruined by Cyclone Winston,” he told ABC.

Authorities are making their way to smaller islands to gain a clearer understanding of the super-cyclone’s impact.

The island most affected by the disaster over the weekend was Koro, located between Fiji’s two largest islands in the Koro sea.

In a national address, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama announced that victims will be able to access low-interest loans to rebuild their homes. Without government aid, many victims of the environmental disaster would be forcibly displaced.

“We will not rest until we have reached you and have given you the helping hand you so badly need and deserve,” said Bainimarama.

Australian Defense Force helicopters, as well as the Royal Australian Navy’s biggest ship, are expected to arrive in Fiji starting Thursday to provide relief. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has already landed in Fiji, providing shelter kits, hygiene kits and water purification tablets.

The National Critical Care and Trauma Response Center (NCCTRC), a Darwin-based center focused on disaster and trauma care, has also responded with assistance to its Pacific neighbor after the cyclone.

Both the government and relief teams continue to reach and aid victims of the disaster.

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