A Rotorua-based Fijian man has been unable to reach family in Fiji after Cyclone Winston tore down trees and ripped down houses.

Malakai Waqanimaravu said his family, living in Lautoka on the western side of Fiji's largest island Viti Levu, were used to cyclones but he had not been able to speak to them since about 9pm on Saturday.

"They said it was just starting. They have experienced cyclones before, but not as big as this one."

He said he tried calling them yesterday morning but could not get through.


"I'm just hoping they are all right. You may lose your house, but it's the lives that matter, you can always rebuild," he said.

The worst of the category 5 storm has now left the Pacific Island nation, but not before at least five deaths, wind gusts of 325km/h and 12m-high waves.

Alexis LewGor said her whole family lived in Lautoka.

They were safe but she had little sleep on Saturday because she was worrying about them.

"I was able to talk to them through Facebook, my main concern was that if anything happened to their houses they were able to go somewhere for shelter," she said.

"Considering all the other natural disasters in the past, all you can do is wait it out.

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"My sister said it was 'fast and furious', and was all over in two hours. She said the wind was 'very frightening' and you can't sleep through it because you don't know what will happen," Ms LewGor said.

She said her family described scenes of devastation.

"There are broken trees and rubbish everywhere, there is no power, but thank God we were still able to communicate. Everyone's okay, my whole family.

"I'd hate to see what it looks like and there will be a big clean-up, but they are very resilient and they will just get on with it.

"When I grew up there 150km/h [wind] was bad, but 350km/h is just so much faster."