Suva/Kuala Lumpur, 18 December 2020 –Cyclone Yasa has slammed into Fiji, with initial reports showing extensive destruction across the island nation with tens of thousands of people affected.
Packing wind gusts of up to 345 kilometres per hour, the Category 5 storm is one of the strongest to ever hit any country in the Pacific.
Fiji Red Cross Society Director-General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau said:
“We are very concerned for the safety of thousands of people who have experienced the brunt of this monster storm. Initial reports from volunteers are revealing destruction in Bua, a province on the island of Vanua Levu. The coastal areas of many islands have been impacted by storm surges and flooding at the height of the storm.
“Our teams report that houses and community buildings have been destroyed and crops flattened. There are widespread power outages in affected areas.
“Trained Red Cross volunteers who live in these same communities are responding to provide first aid and relief and updating the National Office Emergency Centre on needs.”
Fiji Red Cross teams were mobilised as the storm formed, supporting evacuation efforts, securing buildings, and ensuring pre-positioned relief supplies were ready for distribution.
Red Cross volunteers are currently deployed to provide first aid and relief such as tarpaulins for shelter, hygiene kits, safe water, backed by pre-positioned emergency supplies.
Fiji Red Cross teams are working with the National Disaster Management Office and other agencies to work towards meeting immediate needs as quickly and effectively as possible.
To support these relief efforts, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released initial early emergency relief funds of 86,000 Swiss Francs ($97,000 USD), to provide urgent assistance including first aid, tarpaulins and shelter materials, safe water, household items and hygiene kits for 17,700 people over the next month.
Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Kathryn Clarkson, said:
"It's devastating to see another big cyclone affect Fiji so soon after Cyclone Harold and so close to Christmas. With communities that are already facing challenges because of COVID-19 this will only add to the hardships. We have a full team of people supporting the Fiji Red Cross Society operations and will be looking to increase our financial support once we get the full picture of the damages.”
The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives, build community resilience, strengthen localization and promote dignity around the world.