'Impact was quite minimal': Return to normalcy for Fijians after a brush with cyclone Mal
Life is returning to normal in Fiji after severe tropical cyclone Mal shaved the country's western parts on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Forecaster Samisoni Waqavakatoga said Mal is no longer a threat, forecast to stay in open waters away from other countries.
Fijians returned to work on Thursday and public schools that served as evacuation centres opened again to students.
Fiji's National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) is currently conducting its initial damage assessments.
Director Vasiti Soko said these should be completed in the next two to three days but it would depend on accessibility to affected areas.
"With regards to the cost of the actual damage, we won't know until all the initial damage assessment data received," Sokoi said.
No causalities or injures have been reported, she said.
"Flooding [has not been] as aggressive as what we have previously experienced, but we have had rare cases reported for landslides and of course after the cyclone passed, we had a lot of fallen trees as well as electricity polls.
"Yesterday (Wednesday), we had requested members of the public to refrain from loitering so that our utilities could actually go and clear this is to enable accessibility."
Soko said all electricity should have come back online and most communication lines remained intact during the cyclone.
She said all cyclones were different, but the impact seemed less than others that have taken a similar path.
"This one (Mal), it tracked along the same as TC Harold which is a category 4, but in terms of the impact it was quite minimal compared to TC Harold."
✅In the aftermath of a disaster, the actions taken in the days, weeks, & months that follow are instrumental in shaping the trajectory of recovery.— Fiji NDMO (@FijiNDMO) November 16, 2023
✅By prioritising safety, well-being & the needs of the most vulnerable, we can emerge stronger, more resilient, & better prepared pic.twitter.com/9S0GYHuaw5
The first public advisory urging people to be on high alert went out on Friday, days before the worst impacts of the cyclone were felt.
"Fijian people really prepared, they took heed of advisories, we had the highest number in evacuations centre yesterday, people moved in for safety," Soko said.
She said food would be given out to the evacuation centres still open.
New Zealand Navy ship, HMNZS Manawanui is already in Fiji helping with the response.
A New Zealand Defence Force spokesperson said the ship departed New Zealand two weeks ago for a planned seven week deployment to Niue, Fiji and Vanuatu.
"The ship carried out hydrographic surveys and a maritime security patrol after departing Niue, and was in the vicinity of Fiji when Tropical Cyclone Mal struck," the spokesperson said.
"The government of Fiji has requested assistance from HMNZS Manawanui to transport seven personnel from the National Disaster Management Office to conduct initial damage assessment and assist with restocking of evacuation centres over the next week."
The spokesperson said the ship will resume its planned schedule after assisting Fiji.