Cyclone Harold batters Fiji, flattening homes and flooding towns
No immediate reports of deaths but buildings have been damaged and towns flooded in the Pacific island.
A deadly Pacific storm slammed Fiji on Wednesday, tearing off roofs and flooding towns in the capital Suva days after the category-five cyclone hit the island of Vanuatu.
Cyclone Harold passed over Fiji’s south at about midday, levelling homes and snapping communications links in the archipelago, which has adopted curbs on the movement of people to rein in the coronavirus.
“We’ve seen reports of injuries,” Vasiti Soko, the director of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), said by telephone.
“As to the number, as well as the intensity, of the injuries, that’s yet to be ascertained.”
There were no immediate reports of deaths, but about 10 houses in Suva were reported destroyed, Soko added.
Flooded streets, wild winds and ruined buildings on the country’s main island, Viti Levu, home to the capital, featured in unverified video images and photographs circulating on social media.
Emergency officials were scrambling to establish contact with the southern island of Kadavu after the storm severed communications with it, Soko said.
The cyclone, which has killed dozens in the Solomon Islands before destroying buildings in Vanuatu, was expected to make its way to Tonga within days, weather forecasters said.
The National Disaster Management Office said residents along much of the south coast, home to many of the country’s major tourist resorts, should evacuate.
“We are expecting a significant storm surge to be very dangerous for those living in coastal areas, we urge you to move to higher ground,” it said.
Soko said evacuation centres had been set up and officials were attempting to maintain social distancing to ensure COVID-19 did not spread among those fleeing the cyclone.
Fiji has 15 cases of the coronavirus, with all known sufferers in quarantine before the cyclone hit. Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has banned unnecessary gatherings of more than 20 people, among other curbs.
The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 1.4 million people globally and killed over 82,000.