Entire villages have been devastated and at least two people, including a baby, perished during the passage of super cyclone Yasa over Fiji, according to several sources in the archipelago, where relief was organized on Friday to reach the areas most affected.
The highest category 5 hurricane hit Vanua Levu, the second largest island in Fiji, on Thursday evening, whose prime minister again denounced the link between global warming and repeated devastating cyclones.
Local weather services had previously reported gusts of 345 km / h.
The storm caused flooding, landslides and power cuts before leaving the Pacific archipelago via the southeast on Friday, and being downgraded to a Category 3 cyclone.
Zalim Hussein, a resident of the small town of Savusavu, on the island of Vanua Levu, said he was afraid of dying, as he was sheltered at his home in the dark as the gusts washed away houses around his home. him.
“I heard the roofs of neighboring houses fly, trees fall and branches break as huge waves crashed on the coast,” he told AFP.
“We were all afraid of dying and there was a point when I even thought we were going to lose our house. In 65 years, I had never seen anything like it. “
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has confirmed the deaths of two people, a 45-year-old man and a three-month-old baby.
“We are concerned that the toll will increase,” he said.
Mr. Bainimarama, a long-time advocate for stronger international action on climate change, attributed the strength of Typhoon Yasa to global warming.
” It is not normal. There is a climate emergency, ”he said in a tweet.
As the surface of the oceans warms, cyclones become more powerful, according to scientists, who predict an increase in the proportion of category 4 and 5 cyclones.
In the Fijian countryside, most of the houses are made of wood with corrugated iron roofs. Save the Children NGO official Shairana Ali said the homes were absolutely not made to withstand the mighty winds of Yasa’s.
“We are told that in a few villages all the houses have been destroyed,” she told AFP.
“Most of the inhabitants make a living from agriculture, yet crops have been destroyed. “
The Red Cross said it was mobilizing relief teams to respond to “significant destruction” in the Bua region.
Several NGOs had stored emergency aid in Fiji to anticipate the devastation of the cyclone season, which lasts until May.
The Fijian National Disaster Management Office said 24,500 people found refuge at Yasa Passage in 500 evacuation centers across the country.
Since the beginning of the week, the authorities had increased calls for caution to urge the population to take refuge in more solid dwellings, or on the heights if they lived near the coast.
The state of natural disaster was declared Thursday, giving authorities the option of ordering curfews or travel restrictions.
Yasa is the third Category 5 cyclone to hit Fiji since 2016, when Cyclone Winston killed 44 people in the archipelago.
The latest, Harold, in April sowed chaos in Fiji, but also in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga.
“It’s terrible to see another big cyclone so quickly after Cyclone Harold and just days before Christmas,” said Pacific Red Cross chief Kathryn Clarkson, who is based in Suva.
“This will add to the difficulties that the villagers are already experiencing due to Covid-19. “
The relative good news is that the area most affected by the storm was the sparsely populated province of Bau. The destruction would have been much more serious if the cyclone had directly hit the large cities, which were ultimately relatively spared, with the exception of the floods in Rakiraki, on Viti Levu, the archipelago’s main island.