Seventeen people have died after Cyclone Winston slammed into Fiji leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The category five storm hit the island country with wind gust of 300kph (185mph) which toppled trees, brought down power lines and ripped roofs from homes.
Save the Children Fiji chief Iris Low-McKenzie said it was too early to assess the impact on other remote islands, although unconfirmed reports said thousands of homes had been destroyed.
“I’m especially concerned about the remote communities in outlying areas that we haven’t been able to contact yet,” she said.
“Until communications are re-established and assess the damage, we won’t know the full extent of situation.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this. The noise was frightening as roofs were blown off homes and trees were ripped out by their roots.”
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the storm amounted to an “assault on Fiji”, a nation of about 900,000 heavily reliant on its tourism industry.
Many residents spent the night sheltering in some 700 evacuation centres where they were given emergency supplies of food and water.
Falling trees blocked roads on the main island of Viti Levu, where all flights were cancelled as the winds buffeted Nadi international airport.
Suva resident Danny Southcombe said that while the capital escaped the brunt of the storm, it had still been brought to a standstill.
“It’s not too bad here in Suva. We weren’t that badly damaged, just a few panels flew off the house,” he said.
“It’s pretty calm now but when I look around all I can see is trees on the road.”
Ian McGregor, resident in Suva, said the capital had been lucky to escape the worst of the cyclone.
He told Sky News: “When the path (of the cyclone) was announced on Friday afternoon here it looked like it was coming straight for Suva but (it went) further and further away from us, so that’s pretty lucky.
“The perspective from the big urban area in Suva is that it’s very light.”
The Fiji Meteorological Office said Winston has headed out to sea about 230km west of Nadi, although the islands could still expect strong winds, heavy rains and powerful swells.
International airlines are expected to assess the possibility of resuming flights on Monday.