International Medical Corps has activated its emergency response team as Cyclone Winston pummels Fiji with heavy rains, strong winds, and flooding. A team leader is en route to the region to assess the initial damage and humanitarian needs left by the Category 5 storm, while emergency team members remain on standby from the region and around the world to deploy as needed.
The strongest cyclone to make landfall in the southern hemisphere, Winston packed winds of 185 mph before it made landfall on the archipelago nation on Saturday. Much of Fiji is expected to be impacted, including Viti Levu and Vanau Levu, where most of the country’s some 800,000 residents live.
As early as 4 am local time, reports emerged of damaged homes in multiple locations (Nausori, Korovou, Rakiraki, Savusavu, Taveuni, and the Lau Group), with roofs blown off, power and communication lines down, and road blocked by fallen trees. Those living in low-lying areas were encouraged to move to the more than 750 evacuation centers opened by the Government of Fiji.
According to information from the Pacific Disaster Center, the villages of Waitabu in Nabouwalu and Tacilevu in Bua Province are currently flooded with seawater. In Bua on Vanau Levu, the Disaster Management Office (DISMAC) reported that the hospital wards are flooded with rainwater.
Communications are down across much of Fiji, including in Bua and the islands of Vanuabalavu, Lakeba, Cicia, and Nayau in the Lau group and Koro Island.
International Medical Corps has responded in the aftermath of historic storms such as Hurricane Katrina, Typhoon Haiyan, the Japan and Indian Ocean tsunamis, as well as lesser-known systems such as Cyclone Pam, which pounded the South Pacific nation of Vanautu last year. The International Medical Corps emergency response team will assess the most urgent needs in Fiji following Cyclone Winston and is ready to provide immediate humanitarian assistance.