A Northlander stranded in Fiji during Tropical Cyclone Winston has arrived back home safely but the difficulty in contacting his family on the island is worrying him.
Rabendra Prasad, a truck driver from Whangarei, and wife Suzy managed to fly back to New Zealand on Tuesday morning from Nadi International Airport rather than from Nausori. They left for Fiji on February 11 to attend a religious ritual in Navua, a 45-minute drive north west of the capital Suva, which took place the day Cyclone Winston tore through that area. Winston left the island nation devastated, with a death toll of at least 29.
The MetService is now forecasting the cyclone to turn slowly towards Australia today rather than towards Northland as earlier predicted. The main impact for Northland will be "horrible humidity" and "periods of rain" through the weekend, as Cyclone Winston forces subtropical humid air down over the region.
Mr Prasad recalled to the Northern Advocate the harrowing six-hour ordeal his family endured after the prayer meeting on Saturday evening when heavy rain and strong winds started rattling Navua. Power and water supplies to the house in which his mother lived alone were cut off and the kitchen blew away.
He said they feared the worst during their ordeal.
"Branches from coconut palms and other debris rammed into the outside walls of the house. We braved strong winds to get some chickens to safety indoors. We feared anything could happen," he said.
Rain and winds finally stopped about 1am on Sunday but the extent of damage was more pronounced when day broke.
"No one slept that night. Root crops locals relied on to make ends meet were flattened."
Mr Prasad later learnt the house he grew up in in Rakiraki, the northern-most town in the main island of Viti Levu, was completely destroyed. An uncle and his family who occupied the house were forced to spend the night under a table. His main worry is his immediate family members, particularly his mother, who relied on a cellphone for communication but could not charge it because there was no power.
Mr Prasad said since returning to Whangarei, he had been frantically trying to get in touch with his mother but to no avail.
MetService meteorologist Georgina Griffiths said the weather for Northland would remain fairly settled today , but easterly winds and cloud would increase tomorrow.