Cyclone-devastated Fiji eyes more aid as death toll hits 44

Fiji cyclone: Australia and New Zealand have so far led the international response, sending planes laden with supplies, helicopters and medevac teams.

By: AFP | Suva | Published:February 25, 2016 9:42 am
Fiji cyclone, Fiji storm, Cyclone winston, Fiji cyclone deaths, Fiji weather, Fiji weather updates, Fiji weather latest news Fuji cyclone: A car drives along Kings Road near Lautoka, Fiji, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, where power poles lean over after cyclone Winston ripped through the island nation. The cyclone tore through Fiji over the weekend with winds that reached 177 miles (285 kilometers) per hour, making it the strongest storm in Fiji’s recorded history. (Brett Phibbs/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Cyclone-devastated Fiji said it was likely to need more foreign aid today as the body count from the most powerful storm in its history climbed to 44. France became the latest country to join the relief effort following last weekend’s deadly super-cyclone, flying in three tonnes of supplies and 40 engineers to help rebuild crippled infrastructure.

But with Care Australia confirming the death toll had reached 44 — up from 42 previously — and that about 35,000 people were homeless, officials said Fiji “requires all the support that can be given”. Severe tropical cyclone Winston lashed the Pacific nation overnight Saturday, packing wind gusts of 325 kilometres (202 miles) per hour and leaving a trail of destruction.

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Australia and New Zealand have so far led the international response, sending planes laden with supplies, helicopters and medevac teams. New Zealand is also dispatching two naval ships this weekend, while France sent two military transports from New Caledonia.

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In addition, there has been financial support from Canberra, Wellington, India, China, the United States, Japan, Nauru and the Asian Development Bank. “We’ve had a lot of international assistance already and we’re grateful to our friends in the international community,” government spokesman Ewan Perrin told Radio New Zealand.

“But as we go through our more detailed assessments of the damage and area needs we’ll be able to go back to the international community and see if we can source some more things.” Aerial photographs show some villages in outlying islands were flattened in the tempest and Perrin said getting aid through to them was a challenge.

“It’s a widespread disaster. The government’s working as hard as it can around the clock to get the materials out to the people in need,” he said. “Obviously with 300 islands and 900,000 people, we can’t service everybody at once. So I’d ask for people to be patient, the government is on its way.” He said there had been minimal contact with some isolated communities “so we’re not sure how much further the death toll will rise”.

Save the Children estimated 120,000 youngsters were in communities that bore the brunt of the tempest. “Alongside lifesaving aid like food, water and healthcare, we need to ensure that children do not continue to be traumatised and distressed by what they have experienced,” the agency’s local chief Iris Low-McKenzie said.

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