Residents of the Kingdom of Tonga cannot be more happy and most grateful after Cyclone Winston came close to Vava’u but by-passed the islands with damages that were not that significant.
After they saw what Winston did to Fiji, Tongans were shocked and humbled, realizing that what happened to Fiji could have happened to Tonga as well.
The cyclone came close to the northern island of Vava’u but then moved on. It was only a category 2 cyclone then.
There were damages to crops and the authorities have warned that there could be food shortages in a couple of months when harvesting was expected.
However, Tonga is sending to Fiji a naval boat with supplies. It is the first Pacific nation to pledge help to the cyclone stricken nation.
Cyclone Winston moved north east of the Tonga group but then went into a loop and turned back south-west toward the end of the week, striking the Lau Group of Fiji and then the main islands of Vitilevu and Vanualevu.
By the time it struck Fiji, it had built up into Category 5, the strongest category for recorded cyclones.
When Cyclone Winston completed its destructive drive through Fiji, authorities declared that it was the worse that had ever struck Fiji.
Other reports say that it was the worse that had even been recorded in the southern hemisphere.
In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama told the people of Fiji that the damage to the islands by Cyclone Winston has been widespread.
“Homes have been destroyed, many low-lying areas have flooded and many people have been left stunned and confused about what to do,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Bainimarama related what many people were experiencing: “Many are without power and full access to water, and are cut off from communications.”
The monster storm, packing 230 km/hr. winds and gusting to 325 km/hr., destroyed thousands of homes, properties and crops; cut power lines, communication and transport, and brought heavy rains and flooding.
In the wake of the storm, there were 44 deaths, and the latest estimate of $1.2 billion in damage.
But Bainimarama’s call for a united stand to battle the odds, and rebuild Fiji, has been heeded by Fijians everywhere in the country.
More than ever, the country needs to unite in the rehabilitation efforts, he said.
The country’s oldest newspaper, The Fiji Times, has published stories of the courage of many Fijians in making sacrifices to save others during the storm.
“It is difficult to shrug off the massive impact Winston has left in its wake, financially, physically and emotionally,” wrote editor-in-chief Fred Wesley. “As we start picking up the pieces, tales of heroism are slowly coming out as well. Such moments in time, for some unknown reason, bring out heroes. They are men and women who will shrug off any thoughts about their own safety to ensure their fellow human beings are safe.”
Reports from the islands of Koro and Taveuni reveal severe damages. In many areas, entire villages were wiped out by the strong winds of Cyclone Winston.
The Fiji Times reported: “When help finally arrived on Koro Island and the media flew in to bear witness, the scenes were of total devastation. The sign pointing to Sinuvaca village is still there, but the village itself has vanished.”
Bainimarama urged all Fijians to help one another during this time of need.
“Please, if you see your neighbor struggling, help if you are able. If you see a dangerous situation, report it. And keep your fellow Fijians in your prayers as we, together, overcome this tragedy.”
Having visited most of the disaster areas, the Prime Minister told the nation: “I know that for those of you who have lost your homes, your livelihoods or are cut-off from essential services, it is hard to imagine a brighter future. But that future will come. We will reclaim what we have lost.”