17 Apr 2020

TC Harold leaves one dead, dozens injured and more than 2000 homes destroyed in Fiji

12:51 pm on 17 April 2020

More details about the extent of the damage caused by Cyclone Harold last week in Fiji are emerging as relief supplies and food rations reach the worst-hit areas in the country.

Relief supplies including food rations have been sent to the remote areas of Fiji.

Relief supplies including food rations have been sent to the remote areas of Fiji. Photo: Supplied/Fiji govt

According to the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) one person was killed and 26 others injured by the category four cyclone which also destroyed more than 2000 homes.

The NDMO director Vasiti Soko said TC Harold forced hundreds of families to flee their homes with over 1500 people still sheltering in evacuation centres across Fiji's central, eastern and western divisions.

Ms Soko said relief teams were distributing food, shelter kits and medical supplies while continuing their disaster assessments in the remote islands.

"In the Lau group, 109 houses were destroyed and 68 partly-damaged. In Kadavu, 167 homes were destroyed while 331 suffered some damage," Vasiti Soko said, "And in the western division, 228 houses were destroyed and 1164 partly damaged," she said.

Vasiti Soko said farms and food gardens in these areas also suffered extensive damage.

Also, about 60 schools in Fiji have been damaged by Cyclone Harold according to the Ministry of Education which said it was working on response plans for the repair and rebuild.

Officials are also assessing damage to classrooms and teachers' quarters in the outer islands.

State of Natural Disaster

Last week, the government declared a State of Natural Disaster in the areas badly hit by the category 4 storm.

It said most roads were now open, while water supply is back up and running for most of the country.

Power supply is yet to be restored to some areas but Energy Fiji Limited (EFL) said electricity services were expected to normalise this weekend.

The state-owned utility company apologised for the delay but said full restoration required every metre of the power line to be physically inspected and repaired where required, before it could be energised.

"Whilst this process is time consuming, it is nonetheless critical to ensure the safety and security of power supply," EFL said.

Devastation from TC Harold at Bouwaqa Village, Vatulele, Fiji.

Devastation from TC Harold at Bouwaqa Village, Vatulele, Fiji. Photo: Supplied

Relief-effort continues in outer islands

NDMO director, Vasiti Soko, said relief teams are still on Kadavu, Lau, Beqa, Yanuca and Vatulele with other NDMO officials also deployed to the Yasawas and the Mamanuca group on Thursday with relief supplies.

All relief teams were subject to Covid-19 screening by health officials before heading to the outer islands.

Ms Soko said out of the 2057 homes damaged, almost 500 were destroyed.

Ms Soko said there were 76 evacuation centres still open in the central, eastern and western divisions with 1571 people sheltered there.

The prime minister Frank Bainimarama said the evacuation centres were "hygienically maintained" and would remain open for those who need them.

"These families will continue to be fed and looked after until it is safe to return to their communities," Mr Bainimarama said.

Water Authority of Fiji workers filled 50x5000 litre tanks with treated drinking water for villagers on Kadavu.

Water Authority of Fiji workers filled 50x5000 litre tanks with treated drinking water for villagers on Kadavu. Photo: Supplied/Fiji govt

The relief support package

This week, the National Provident Fund (FNPF) activated its Natural Disaster Withdrawal Scheme and members affected by Cyclone Harold can now access their funds.

The FNPF said the scheme enabled members living in the affected areas to apply for $US890.

Chief executive Jaoji Koroi said teams were deployed on Wednesday to inspect and collect applications from those whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the storm.

Mr Koroi said it was unfortunate Fijians had to endure Cyclone Harold while coming to grips with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Counselling support

Counselling services are being provided to those affected by the cyclone, with teams visiting Nadi, Ba, Labasa and Kadavu.

Empower Pacific chief executive Patrick Morgan said many of the people they spoke to needed counselling having lost their homes, belongings and livelihoods.

Mr Morgan said it was important that Fijians understand that counselling provided a vital role during crises.

He urged people affected to reach out and seek help if they needed it.

TC Harold aid logistics at Natovi, Fiji

TC Harold aid logistics at Natovi, Fiji Photo: Fiji NDMO

International relief aid

French Ambassador to Fiji, Jean-François Fitou, said a flight from New Caledonia on Monday brought five tonnes of humanitarian aid from Paris to help Fijian affected by Cyclone Harold.

Mr Fitou said these included 100 family kits of 100 tents, 100 kitchen sets, 100 shelter kits and 200 20-litre jerry cans.

Meanwhile people living on Kadavu and Lau received $US112,000 worth of aid from the Rotary Clubs in Fiji.

Rotary also handed over emergency response kits, clothes, soaps and toothbrushes to the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) on Monday.

It said it was a coordinated effort with the NDMO and the New Zealand government.