Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Cyclone Winston: Looters steal from family who lost home

A family who lost their home in Cyclone Winston has had what little they had left stolen by looters.

They are now begging for help and say they have still not had any help from authorities in Fiji.

Salesh Kumar lives with his wife Premila, daughter Priyashna, 17, and 79-year-old mother in Rakiraki in the north of Viti Levu. The town sits at the centre of the island's worst hit area.

When Winston hit Mr Kumar pushed his daughter and wife under a small bed and lay over top of his mother on the couch to shield her from the roof as it collapsed into the room.

Three weeks before the cyclone Mr Kumar had taken out a loan of $5000 to replace his roof and fit hurricane-proof screws. They were no match for the furious Winston and the family's home suffered extensive damage.

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The Herald spoke to Mr Kumar in Fiji last week. He has since revealed that his home has been looted several times.

"Whatever tools -- chainsaw, drills and so on -- that we had and we were drying in the sun, were stolen," he said.

"Live chicken that we had were killed right beside the chicken pan before being stolen. Only chicken blood was left when we realised the theft."

Mr Kumar said some food rations had been delivered to his neighbourhood, but no other help had come.

"No one has yet arrived to assess the damage we have had," he said.

The family say they have still not had any help from authorities in Fiji. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The family say they have still not had any help from authorities in Fiji. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"We received once a bit of ration from the government which is enough for a few days only. Otherwise families and friends are helping us with the same."

Priyasha was still shaken by the cyclone -- which robbed her of all of her school books. She has been named the outstanding student at her school for the last eight years and is now terrified her future is in jeopardy because she cannot study.

Auckland martial arts club Seishin-Ryu Karate Do approached the Herald last week and offered to donate money to replace the teenager's books.

Mr Kumar was blown away by club president Chris Dessa's generosity.

"We cannot thank you enough for helping us out," he wanted to tell Mr Dessa.

The desperate father-of-two, who has an elder daughter at university, said his family were totally reliant on the kindness of strangers.

Like many in Fiji, they will not be able to rebuild without financial support and donations.

"We are in dire need for financial assistance," Mr Kumar said.

He and Mrs Kumar are not able to return to work at this stage so are not making any money. With about $600 a month needed for his mother's medical needs life was already a struggle before the cyclone.

The New Zealand government has earmarked more than $4.7 million to help with the cyclone recovery effort. Defence force ships, vehicles and personnel have also been deployed to the stricken nation.

Other countries including the US and Australia have also pledged significant amounts of money to help Fiji in the wake of its worst national disaster, and shipments of essential items are being organised and shipped across the Pacific by community groups. A number of aid organisations are also on the ground distributing crucial supplies.

- NZ Herald

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