Fiji says two dead as powerful cyclone tears across Pacific nation

Authorities order population of nearly one million people to seek shelter

Reuters December 18, 2020
A fallen electric pole due to Cyclone Yasa lies on Lesiaceva Road in Savusavu, Fiji, December 18, 2020, in this image obtained via social media. Fiji Roads Authority via REUTERS

A powerful cyclone pounded Fiji, killing two people, including a three-month-old baby, and leaving a trail of destruction across the Pacific Island nation, authorities said on Friday.

Cyclone Yasa, a top category five storm, made landfall over Bua province on the northern island of Vanua Levu on Thursday evening, bringing torrential rain, widespread flooding and winds of up to 285 km per hour (177 miles) across the archipelago.

Scores of houses were destroyed, while power was cut to some areas and roads blocked by fallen trees and flash flooding, authorities said.

Images shared on social media showed roads blocked by landslides, floodwaters and power lines. All roads in Rakiraki, a district on the main island with about 30,000 residents, were flooded, Fiji’s Road Authority said.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama confirmed the two deaths in a video posted on Facebook.

“Two fatalities have been confirmed. A 45-year old man in Labasa and a three-month-old baby,” he said.

“The dust has yet to settle... but we are likely looking at hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.”

Fiji on Thursday had declared a state of natural disaster, implemented a nightly curfew and ordered its entire population of nearly 1 million people to seek shelter.

“Villages in Vanua Levu have lost a lot of houses. The wind has flattened many community buildings and crops have been flattened,” Fiji Red Cross Society Director-General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau told Reuters by phone from Suva, the country’s capital.

Bainimarama said authorities were scrambling to help affected communities. Adverse weather has hampered efforts by aid groups to dispatch assistance, with waves of more than 3 metres (10 ft) preventing ships leaving Suva.

Concerns remain about heavy rains, although the storm has weakened in strength and is now a category two as it moves south across the island chain.


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