New York, 1830hrs, 23 February 2016 –The extent of destruction from Tropical Cyclone Winston, the Southern Hemisphere’s strongest tropical storm on record, are being assessed as emergency crews reach hardest-hit outlying islands and other areas isolated by storm damage.
“All reports indicate the scale of destruction is beyond anything experienced before in Fiji,” said Ambassador Peter Thomson, Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. “The Government of Fiji’s first concern is to provide humanitarian emergency assistance, food, water, sanitation and shelter to people in dire need. This process has begun and we are working in close coordination with humanitarian partners to deliver the assistance required.”
He said to date 36 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the cyclone’s rampage through Fiji, and that widespread destruction of homes and buildings has occurred throughout the country. Some 14,000 people are currently reported to be sheltering in 274 evacuation centres and a thirty-day State of Natural Disaster has been declared by the Government of Fiji.
Ambassador Thomson announced that international assistance has been officially requested by the Government of Fiji and that in concert with UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), he would be giving a briefing to Member States at the United Nations at 11am on Friday, 26 February. He explained that time was necessary as the briefing would cover a full assessment of the situation as well as the needs of Fiji at this time of national tragedy.
The Ambassador said the United Nations was closely supporting the work of the Government’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) in Fiji. International experience of natural disasters has time and again demonstrated that NDMO control and coordination of international assistance is critical.
Fiji’s Ambassador thanked the nations and organizations that had provided the early assistance received to date, and said that for the information of donors and partners, a needs assessment would be included in the briefing to be given on Friday at the United Nations. He said Fijians were by nature resilient and strong of heart and spirit, but the severity of the situation meant Fiji was going to require extensive assistance from the international community in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Bank account details for the Prime Minister’s National Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Fund are available on the website of the Fiji Permanent Mission at www.fijiprun.org
For additional information contact Gene W Bai, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Fiji to the United Nations. New York. Tel: (212) 687 4130; Cell: (917) 239 1817