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Cyclone Winston: After the storm

Wednesday 2 March 2016 | Published in Regional


SUVA – Cyclone Winston which hit Fiji nine days ago has caused an estimated US$19.4 million worth of damage to schools throughout the country.

The Fiji Times reports the amount is expected to rise as assessments are still being carried out.

About 240 schools have been reported damaged or completely destroyed in the category five storm which hit Fiji ten days ago, killing 43 people.

The paper reports damage to the agriculture sector is estimated at US$47.5 million.

The government has estimated a total damage bill of US$465 million.

Meanwhile, aid workers in Fiji have praised the government for the “colossal” effort to open more than 1000 schools on Tuesday.

UNICEF spokesperson Alice Clements said with so many schools partially or completely damaged, the government had asked her organisation for “School in a Box” kits, with each one holding a tent and materials for a class of 40.

She said children would need ongoing support and it was vital to get them straight back into routines.

“The importance of this really can’t be overstated,” she said.

“We have decades of experience now that proves that getting kids back into school as quickly as possible is the fastest way to help them recover emotionally, it’s the fastest way to keep them safe and it’s the best way to support recovery efforts overall.”

Clements said UNICEF had “pre-positioned” supplies in Fiji before the cyclone, and was now replenishing them from Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and flying more in from Denmark.

They included water purification kits, sanitary pads and soap and hygiene kits.

Save the Children New Zealand child and family psychologist Melanie Patterson said the children would need to talk about their nightmarish memories from Cyclone Winston in order to recover.

Patterson did a tour around the country and heard stories from young children, including two who were thrown out the front windows of their house as it fell forward.

In Raviravi village, dozens of kids tore up floorboards in a classroom and sheltered underneath for hours.

These children would only recover and be ready to talk when they were back in a familiar routine and playing again with their peers, she said.

“ We know that children, they process events through play, that is how they learn but it is also how they make sense of the world around them.”

Patterson said Save the Children had offered the Fiji government help to restock all kindergartens with arts and craft materials and toys.

The European Union is expected to provide more aid to help Fiji’s sugar industry.

Up to 80 per cent of the crop is reported to have been destroyed.

The EU’s representative in Fiji Andrew Jacobs told FBC News work is underway to get funding specifically for sugar in addition to the US$4.6 million the EU has already pledged for relief efforts.

The Fiji Roads Authority is working around the clock to repair roads and jetties around the country.

The Fiji Times reports the agency is focusing on roads in southern Ra, Taveuni, Ba and northern Tailevu.

Food rations have been delivered to villagers of Yacata island which suffered badly in the cyclone. The villagers told the Fiji Times the food, meant to last a month, arrived just as their stores were running out.

A major communication tower for Fiji’s remote Lau island group was completely crumpled by Cyclone Winston.

The tower used to stand on Mago Island, which is owned by actor and film director Mel Gibson.

It provides communication to Vanua Balavu, which was decimated by the cyclone.

It also links to Yacata, Kaibu and Lakeba islands.

A cheque of $25,767.96 from the crew and guests aboard cruise-liner Seabourn Odyssey was presented to the Fiji Red Cross Society in Suva on Tuesday.

The captain of the cruise liner David Bathgate said he loved Fiji and its people. The Seabourn Odyssey is on a round trip route from Los Angeles to Los Angeles, making stops at ports in the Pacific.

Captain Bathgate said he felt honoured and privileged to be in Fiji and was delighted to be able to assist and support in any way possible. He said equally they are saddened because of the losses and the devastation that the storm had caused.

“While we were cruising in the South Pacific, we’ve been following the weather very carefully and Winston was one of the tropical cyclones giving us great concern.

“So very careful route planning was involved in the early days, and we were very pleased that Winston managed to dissolve and moved away before we were scheduled to arrive and we feel very, very privileged to be able to still come to Fiji,” he said.

Fiji Red Cross Society President, Cathy Wong received the cheque and donations from the cruise liner. She thanked the crew members and guests on behalf of all Fijians.

The National Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Fund has received a boost from the Fijian community in Sydney, Australia.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has received a cheque for $52,500 from the Sydney Fijian Fiji Day Committee.

Bainimarama said the assistance given will go a long way in helping Fijian families rebuild their lives after the devastation of Winston.

Sydney Fijian Fiji Day Committee vice president, Kiniviliame Koroibulileka, said their members and supporters were with the people of Fiji during “these trying times”.

The National Rugby League (NRL) of Australia has donated A$50,000. The NRL is the top league of professional rugby league clubs in Australasia.

In addition to the donation, the NRL has pledged to continue to work with UNICEF and their rapid response network and is encouraging fans and communities to support the appeal and the people of Fiji as they start to rebuild.

Australian Rugby League Commission chair John Grant said the Rugby League community has close ties with Fiji, with some of the game’s finest and most popular players coming from Fiji.

Fiji’s National Federation Party has put aside its opposition to Fiji’s government this week, applauding its display of unity and solidarity in “providing assistance in every possible manner to those whose livelihood has been destroyed by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston”.

Members of the NFP led by Biman Prasad toured the Western Division last Tuesday and witnessed the destruction caused by TC Winston.

“The NFP supports the prime minister’s call for unity and government’s plans to rehabilitate the lives of the victims,” Prasad said.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services has received a donation of bio-medical equipment worth F$170,000 from the government of India to assist in the replacement of damaged equipment for health centres following Tropical Cyclone Winston.

The Minister for Health and Medical Services, Jone Usamate, said the donation is timely as some of the nation’s health facilities were badly damaged.

The Indian government has also pledged over F$2.1 million as a cash grant for relief efforts and recovery activities, along with medicine, food, tents and transportation helicopter to deliver relief materials.

The Japanese Government has pledged F$154,000 in relief assistance.

Two French government Casa aeroplanes will be helping the National Disaster Manage ment Office’s relief work in the remote areas.

Minister for National Disaster Management, Colonel Inia Seruiratu, said the air support which came by way of New Caledonia from the French government would deliver food and assistance to areas currently hard to reach.

Teams of inmates and Fiji Corrections Service officers have been applauded by school principals, provincial leaders and members of the public for their work to clear the debris left by TC Winston.

Correction Services acting commissioner, Kameli Ratuvakalevulevu, said the teams had successfully carried out the task of cleaning up at various locations well before the given deadlines.

Ratuvakalevulevu said the team would move on to schools and villages in the province of Ra.

Similar efforts are being made for areas severely affected in the Northern Division.

Pope Francis has reportedly prayed for those who lost their lives or livelihoods in Fiji last week.

The Pope, along with the crowd gathered in St Peters’ Square on Sunday, prayed for the victims of Cyclone Winston and those providing relief assistance.

“I also wish to assure my closeness to the peoples of the Fiji Islands, harshly lashed by a devastating cyclone. I pray for the victims and for those who are committed to the relief operations,” he said.

The captain of Fiji’s Rugby Sevens squad , Osea Kolinisau, has also sent word on behalf of the team from the World Rugby Sevens Series in Las Vegas.

“As the country slowly tries to get back on its feet, Fijians need something to hang on to. Hope can do wonders,” he is reported in the Fiji Times.

“When there is a beacon of hope, hardship, frustration, anger and any sense of doubt and insecurity can be overcome.”

Members of the team have vowed to put on a performance that will bring out Fijian smiles this weekend.

“I have told the boys that we have a task ahead and to be strong for the people that have been affected,” Kolinisau said.

“We need to play good rugby to get the smiles back on their faces. Las Vegas is a really important tournament for us and we will try our best to win for the people of Fiji.”

Kolinisau and national coach Ben Ryan said that every member of the team has been affected by the impact of Winston.

“They know the harsh reality on the ground. They know they will be carrying the hopes and aspirations of a nation that is struggling to recover from the effects of a megastorm.”