Cyclone Winston's youngest victim: Baby ripped from parents as they fled storm

Alifereti Samu and Mereani Biukula saisd their baby was swept from their arms. Photo / Facebook
Alifereti Samu and Mereani Biukula saisd their baby was swept from their arms. Photo / Facebook

A 10-month-old baby may be the youngest victim of the cyclone that struck Fiji and claimed at least 29 lives.

There are reports of enormous tidal surges swamping Koro Island, northeast of Suva, and sweeping a baby from the arms of his desperate parents fleeing rising waters.

The distraught mother and father of 10-month-old Apisai Vulaono told Fiji TV they could not believe their baby was missing, presumed drowned.

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Father Alifereti Samu said: "He is our firstborn, we still haven't found him. We believe he has been taken out to sea."

Mr Samu described the terrifying ordeal his young family faced on Saturday as they struggled to escape powerful 300km/h winds and neck-high water that rose across the island.

He said the family had been told to leave their home and move to another place to sit out the storm.

"We thought we would only be affected by strong winds. When we were in that house waves began to rush into the village. When the winds began to rise, we ran for safety," he said.

He and wife Mereani Biukula tried to flee to higher ground as seas began to slam the coastline and destroy everything in their path.

"When we got to the other side, the water level was up to my neck. The house began to fall and waves began to pound on us, we drowned in the waves, our son was above water and he then drowned but we managed to save him."

Mr Samu said he held on to his son but the waves swept the child and his wife from his grasp.

His wife was later found washed up alive on the other side of the village.

Eight people died on Koro Island, which was directly in the path of Cyclone Winston.

The death toll stands at 29 and 89 people are being treated for injuries.

How to donate

• Red Cross: redcross.org.nz
• Tear Fund: tearfund.org.nz
• World Vision: worldvision.org.nz
• Unicef: unicef.org.nz
• Oxfam: oxfam.org.nz
• Habitat for Humanity: www.habitat.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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