Cyclone Winston: On the ground as Fiji deals with devastating aftermath

The New Zealand Herald's Anna Leask and Brett Phibbs are in Fiji as the country picks itself up following the devastating Cyclone Winston that claimed at least 29 lives.

The destruction of Cyclone Winston is everywhere here. Sheets of corrugated iron lie flattened in the grass, trees are uprooted and sprawled over roads and debris litters the area.

Incredible tales of survival have emerged from villages across Fiji.

Seru Pepeli, in the background is the chicken shed, his mother-in-law is forced to live in. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Seru Pepeli, in the background is the chicken shed, his mother-in-law is forced to live in. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Seru Pepeli was forced to leave his elderly disabled mother-in-law in the chicken coop while the rest of the family ran to the safety of the evacuation centre.

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Seru Pepeli, right, with Litta Baleiwai, left, and his mother-in-law Queenie Baleiwai. Their home in Lovu was destroyed by Cyclone Winston. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Seru Pepeli, right, with Litta Baleiwai, left, and his mother-in-law Queenie Baleiwai. Their home in Lovu was destroyed by Cyclone Winston. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Days after the cyclone she remains living in the chicken coop, unable to join her family at their temporary accommodation at the local school.

Families are forced to live together in a classroom at Lovu Seaside School. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Families are forced to live together in a classroom at Lovu Seaside School. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Schools which should be brimming with children taking lessons are instead packed with families such as the Pepelis who have been displaced by Cyclone Winston.

Children drink water from a water tanker a evacuation centre at Lovu Seaside School. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Children drink water from a water tanker a evacuation centre at Lovu Seaside School. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Lovo Sangham School north of Nadi is now home to around 16 families, mostly from the hilly area of Lovo, who are waiting to clean up and start again.

Some of the people of the Lovu Seaside have already begun to rebuild. They chose to stay put and tough out the flood waters due to fears thieves would take their possessions if they left.

Shahista Bano with her 8-month-old son Ikram, their home in Lovu Seaside. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Shahista Bano with her 8-month-old son Ikram, their home in Lovu Seaside. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Shahista Bano, 27m lives in the settlement with her husband and baby boy. They have already rebuilt much of the frame of the house.

Locals in the ruins that was their home in Lovu Seaside. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Locals in the ruins that was their home in Lovu Seaside. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Love Seaside, an informal settlement about half an hour north of Nadi is home to about 1500 people but it's not an official village so its people get nothing from the Government.

Video

The region of Ba was hit hard by Cyclone Winston. Even those who sought safety in the sturdy halls and centres during the storm found themselves in danger.

Power lines down at Ba, after it was destroyed after cyclone Winston hit and caused loss of lives and extensive damage to the north west side of the Viti Levu. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Power lines down at Ba, after it was destroyed after cyclone Winston hit and caused loss of lives and extensive damage to the north west side of the Viti Levu. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Villagers from the Nakavika settlement in Ba resorted to pulling up floorboards of an evacuation centre at the Raviravi Sangam School and scrambled in the pitch darkness to safety after winds blew off the building's roof.

Asesela Sadole Fong their home at south of Ba was destroyed after cyclone Winston hit. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Asesela Sadole Fong their home at south of Ba was destroyed after cyclone Winston hit. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Getting emergency supplies to isolated islands is the Fijian government's top priority as the recovery from Cyclone Winston continues.

A 4WD drives through the flood waters of Cyclone Winston. Photo / Brett Phibbs
A 4WD drives through the flood waters of Cyclone Winston. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The damage is severe, and in some areas will take months to fix.

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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