March 4, 2016 — Aid and relief to Fiji’s remote communities hit by Cyclone Winston is increasingly challenging, with the Red Cross saying the outer islands are in urgent need of food, water and emergency shelter.
The category five system, one of the most powerful ever in the region, hit Fiji on February 20 with wind gusts of up to 330 kilometres per hour.
— Phil Williams (@PhilWilliamsABC) March 3, 2016
The Pacific community has rallied to help Fiji, but Suva-based Red Cross aid worker Joe Cropp said the greatest difficulty was getting aid to outer islands that have been totally destroyed by the storm.
“When we reach these villages we’re discovering that some have been totally destroyed, or up to 90 per cent of the houses have been destroyed,” he told the ABC’s Pacific Beat, adding that “the most urgent need is to provide emergency shelter”.
“As you travel around the region you find they’re staying with friends and relatives. So those villages where a few houses have survived they’re staying with neighbours, then returning to their homes during the day to rebuild.”
The United Nations said on Wednesday that 120,000 Fijians were in urgent need of shelter, and the country’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has noted that 960 evacuation centres are open.
The NDMO has also registered an increase in evacuees, while there has been a slight decrease in the number of centres.
“At the moment we have tens of thousands of people who are still in evacuation centres. Some are starting to move home but this is a long process,” Mr Cropp said.
Director General of the Fiji Red Cross Society, Filipe Nainoca, said in a statement that people were still in a state of shock.
The aid group is hoping to raise millions of dollars to provide immediate emergency assistance like clothing, kitchen sets and tools, as well as ensuring communities have access to clean water and help to recover from psychological trauma.
Mr Cropp said that communities in and around Fiji have already been very generous.
“New Zealand, for instance, have emptied all their warehouses and flown supplies in during the first days following the cyclone,” he said.
“Australia is flying in aid, and throughout the Pacific — Tonga, Vanuatu, they’re all doing their bit.”
Pacific Beat | ABC News