ShelterBox aid workers take cover as second cyclone in six weeks brings more misery to Fiji

ShelterBox relief tent in Fiji


As the Fiji islands recover from Cyclone Winston, the strongest storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, the Pacific archipelago is now bracing itself for tropical cyclone Zena which has already caused flash flooding. Aid workers, including ShelterBox teams, are sheltering from the intense rains.

For the second time in six weeks the people of Fiji have been ordered to stay indoors as another major cyclone bears down on the paradise islands, and thousands are again heading for evacuation centres.

Category three Cyclone Zena is expected to hit early tomorrow. Torrential rain has already triggered major flash flooding on Monday and Tuesday. There are fears that Zena will cause structural damage in populated areas such as Suva, the Pacific Harbour and the Coral Coast. Its course is expected to threaten the main island of Viti Levu and Kadavu, where New Zealand radio reports that at least 3,500 people have already moved into emergency shelters.

The Fijian Government has imposed an indefinite nationwide ‘Restriction of Movement’ order, which came into force at 18.00 local time. ‘To preserve safety and public order prior to the arrival of Tropical Cyclone Zena, all members of the public are to remain indoors and secure their properties until further notice,’ says an official statement. ‘The Fiji Police Force, in support of the Emergency and Discipline Services, will ensure the maintenance of this order.’

ShelterBoxes on wheelbarrows pushed by kids, Batiki island

The Government also announced that schools have been closed, and most international and domestic flights have been cancelled. Fiji media report that a 70-year old man was found dead in the swollen Sabeto River, and another 19-year-old woman is missing after being swept away in floodwaters. 

Alf Evans, who is In Country Coordinator for ShelterBox’s ongoing response to Cyclone Winston, says a bridge is down at nearby Toki. He reports to the charity’s Cornwall HQ, ‘Some ShelterBox tents are being taken down on the initiative of communities themselves.’

‘The hotel in which our response team is staying has all its seawards facing windows boarded up. If all communications on the island go down we will continue to avoid all unnecessary travel, stay safe, and make contact as soon as possible. We have first aid kits, and among the team we have several first aid trained individuals. One of our response volunteers is a trained police lost person and search manager.’

Cyclone Winston peaked on 20 February, killing at least 42 people and causing widespread structural damage. A major international aid effort is still in full swing, particularly on outlying islands with small communities. Zena will be a further setback, as transport infrastructure, power and fresh water will again be vulnerable.

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