Fiji says 2 dead as powerful cyclone tears across Pacific nation


A powerful cyclone pounded Fiji, killing two people, including a three-month old baby, and leaving a trail of destruction across the Pacific Island nation, authorities said on Friday.

Cyclone Yasa, a top category five storm, made landfall over Bua province on the northern island of Vanua Levu on Thursday evening, bringing torrential rain, widespread flooding and winds of up to 285 km/h across the archipelago.

Scores of houses were destroyed, while power was cut to some areas and roads blocked by fallen trees and flash flooding, authorities said.

Images shared on social media showed roads blocked by landslides, floodwaters and power lines. All roads in Rakiraki, a district on the main island with about 30,000 residents, were flooded, Fiji’s Road Authority said.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama confirmed the two deaths in a video posted in Facebook.

“Two fatalities have been confirmed. A 45-year old man in Labasa and a three-month old baby,” he said.

“The dust has yet to settle… but we are likely looking at hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.”

People remove debris due to Cyclone Yasa at Velau Drive in Fiji on Friday in this image obtained via social media. (Fiji Roads Authority via Reuters)

Fiji on Thursday had declared a state of natural disaster, implemented a nightly curfew and ordered its entire population of nearly 1 million people to seek shelter.

“Villages in Vanua Levu have lost a lot of houses. The wind has flattened many community buildings and crops have been flattened,” Fiji Red Cross Society Director-General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau told Reuters by phone from Suva, the country’s capital.

Bainimarama said authorities were scrambling to help affected communities. Adverse weather has hampered efforts by aid groups to dispatch assistance, with waves of more than 3 metres preventing ships leaving Suva.

Concerns remain about heavy rains, although the storm has weakened in strength and is now a category two as it moves south across the island chain.

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