26 Feb 2016

Fiji 'down the drain' in 24 hours

10:02 pm on 26 February 2016

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is visiting a remote inland village hit hard by Cyclone Winston.

Children in the Nadalei evacuation centre - the Catholic School classrooms - on 26 February 2016.

About 50 families have taken shelter at the evacuation centre in Fiji's remote Nadalei Village. Photo: RNZ / Alex Perrottet

Officials have updated the number of people forced into evacuation centres by the category five tropical cyclone to 59,000 - more than 6 percent of the country's population.

The death toll from Saturday's storm remains at 42, with two people missing.

Nadalei Village is in the remote interior of Fiji's Viti Levu Island, on the Tavua Road past Vatukoula.

One resident, Semi, would have died if his family hadn't found him half buried in the rubble after Cyclone Winston.

Many others, including a 101-year-old man and about 50 families, are sheltering in the village's evacuation centre - the Nadalei Catholic School.

One of the nuns that taught at the village, Sister Kalala, said their convent was totally lost.

"This used to be my room. That's our classroom ... our kitchen and our dining room, all gone."

Mr Bainimarama arrived in the village with a container of food rations provided by Vodafone.

School would resume on Monday and residents would be given tents to use as temporary homes, he said.

The entire country was reeling from the storm's impact, he said.

"A couple of weeks [ago], I was talking about the economy, the Fijian economy, that has been going up, been growing ... All that went down the drain in 24 hours when Winston came in."

Across the country, damage from the cyclone has been estimated at over $650 million with officials and aid agencies still to assess damage to remote islands.

Review a selection of RNZI reporter Alex Perrottet's live tweets from Nadalei:

More from RNZ and RNZI reporters in Fiji