Cyclone Winston devastates Fiji

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Salvation Army opens 10 evacuation centers.

The Salvation Army launched Fiji Cyclone Appeal to help the organization’s relief efforts following Cyclone Winston, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, which struck the Pacific Island nation during the overnight hours of Feb. 20. Its record-breaking wind gusts approached 185 mph, with gusts near the eye estimated at 225 mph. The storm killed at least 21 people and destroyed structures across Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island. Thousands of people remain in shelters.

Fiji Divisional Commander Major David Noakes called the storm “vicious” in a statement early Saturday evening even before the worst of the storm.

“The whole of Fiji is already being severely battered,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of Fijians in quite desperate situations come morning.”

The Salvation Army established 10 evacuation centers, utilizing funds from The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Aid Program to provide such necessities as mattresses, generators, food and water.

The government-imposed curfew hindered the early efforts of Noakes and his wife, Vyvyenne, to check on the evacuation centers; they found roads blocked. The curfew also prevented some centers from opening.

Some Salvation Army properties sustained damage and various evacuation centers faced internal flooding as the wind proved too intense for the hurricane shutters.

“The worst situation we’ve been made aware of to date is Rakiraki, about halfway between Suva and Nadi,” Noakes said. “The Salvation Army officers had to evacuate their house due to leaks but are now back home and looking after several Salvation Army families, all of whom have lost their homes.”

As of Feb. 22, with the curfew lifted, Noakes and others planned to travel as much as roads allowed to assess the damage and respond to needs. Communication is a problem, as power is out across much of the country, and computer and phone batteries are running low.

“We have not yet been able to make contact with our centers in Savusavu or Taveuni and therefore have no idea as to the scope of the situation in those locations,” Noakes said.”The Ba Corps and officer quarters were badly flooded, with the quarters perhaps beyond repair.

“Yesterday [Sunday], Captain Sevanaia Wawa held a church service at Rawai consisting almost entirely of those who had sought shelter there from The Salvation Army.

“Thank you for your ongoing prayers for Fiji, which are greatly appreciated,” he said. “We are very proud of our people here and their service to others, despite the disruption to their own lives.”

Based on reports from New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory

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