The toll from the powerful Cyclone Winston that struck Fiji on Saturday has risen to 17. The country launched a massive cleanup drive on Monday as aid agencies fear a widespread health crisis, especially in low-lying areas where thousands of people live in tin shacks. “Given the intensity of the storm and the images we have seen so far, there are strong concerns that the death toll won’t stop climbing today,” the Pacific regional director of aid group Oxfam, Raijeli Nicole, said
The cyclone was one of the most powerful storms recorded in the southern hemisphere. Around 8,000 people are still at evacuation centres across Fiji, where they sought refuge before the cyclone hit. New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said reports of widespread damage were coming in from across the archipelago of about 300 islands. He added that relief supplies and an emergency response team will reach the Fijian capital, Suva, later on Monday, Reuters reported.
Authorities said most deaths were caused by flying debris and drowning in storm surges. Seven fishermen are believed to be missing at sea, as well. The military was able to boost its efforts to access the more remote parts of Fiji after the 36-hour curfew was lifted on Monday. Fiji also reopened its main airport in Nadi. Aerial footage of outlying islands, which was posted on the government’s official website, showed whole villages flooded and destroyed.