Fijians are counting themselves “lucky” after escaping the wrath of tropical cyclones Judy and Kevin which barrelled through Vanuatu last weekend.
The scale of destruction is becoming clearer as the Vanuatu government assesses damage to homes, buildings, infrastructure and telecommunications.
There are no reports of casualties, but power and water are yet to be restored in some areas, including the capital, Port Vila.
While parts of Fiji suffered heavy flooding this week caused by Cyclone Kevin – at category 5 over open waters on Monday and south of the country – Fijian authorities said it could have been worse.
The Pacific cyclone season runs from November to late April.
In January, Fiji’s weather office predicted that up to seven tropical cyclones could affect Pacific nations and up to four of them may be severe.
In its 2022/2023 Tropical Cyclone Seasonal Outlook, the Fijian government said the region would experience less than the annual average cyclone activity.
Towns were closed and schools across Fiji were shut on Monday as heavy rain and strong winds – associated with Cyclone Kevin with gusts of up to 100kph – hit the group.
Fiji’s west was heavily impacted with flooding in major towns such as Nadi – the country’s tourist hotspot and where the only international airport is.
In Ba, some roads were still under water on Wednesday and only accessible by four-wheel-drives.
In Lautoka, a family is seeking the government’s help after a royal Poinciana (Christmas) tree flattened their four-bedroom corrugated iron and timber home on Tuesday.
Homeowner Vikash Kumar told Stuff his children, aged 15 and 7, were at home when the incident happened on Tuesday afternoon.
Kumar said he was shopping in town and his wife was at work when he received a telephone call from an older brother about the tree.
Both children were unhurt, he said, “but the bedrooms were completely destroyed, television, sofa, electrical appliances, beddings, clothes all destroyed.
“We are pleading with the government to assist us in rebuilding our home as we cannot do it on our own.
“This is just the effects of the strong winds. I cannot imagine what Cyclone Kevin would have done if it had changed its track and headed towards Fiji. How lucky were we?”
An official at the Lautoka District Office has confirmed to Stuff that a team has visited families in the area, including the Kumars, who suffered damage to their homes.
The families have been assured of government help, the DO official said.
In Vanuatu, residents are counting their losses after three disasters in less than a week: First Cyclone Judy lashed the country last Wednesday, followed by an earthquake early Friday and Cyclone Kevin later that day and throughout the weekend.
A massive clean-up is under way, with a six-month-long state of emergency declared by the government.
Vanuatu Prime Minister Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau announced that 80% of the population has been impacted.
He said the southern islands have been hit hardest.
“The airport has reopened, but some domestic flights remain suspended as assessments on the airstrips are being carried out.”
Flights to Santo and Tanna islands have resumed. Tanna had been cut off from the rest of the country since last Wednesday.
Air Vanuatu said all impacted international flights have been rescheduled.
The airline has advised passengers returning to Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland not to go to the airport until instructed to do so.
Most schools remain closed but some in Vila held a “soft opening” on Wednesday, with children able to attend classes, urged to go to school.
Unicef Vanuatu said every effort should be made to “resume classes as soon as possible”.
The UN agency estimates up to 58,000 children in Vanuatu had been impacted by the recent storms.
UNICEF’s Pacific representative, Jonathan Veitch, said those in the worst-affected provinces, such as Tafea and Shefa, need urgent assistance.
He said with power still out in many places, and boats and planes grounded or damaged, there is still not enough information on the impact the disaster has had on children in the outer islands.
SOURCE: STUFF NZ/PACNEWS