TODAY |

Resident describes 'warzone' left behind after Cyclone Yasa strikes Fiji

Trees split in half by the force of the wind at Sairusi Kaiwaidau's home in Fiji on Wednesday evening as Cyclone Yasa ran her course.

Cyclone Yasa leaves flooding in Fiji. Source: Anglican Diocese of Polynesia

Kaiwaidau told 1 NEWS the gales were so fierce it sounded like a cat squawking at the door of his house in Namara settlement, near the town of Labasa in Vanua Levu.

Kaiwaidau, who decided to stay home instead of going to an evacuation centre, barricaded himself in his house with some neighbours after he heard them calling his name and trying to carry his five children to safety. Another neighbour climbed onto her table as flood waters rose.

Power went out in the region, he said, describing the dark but loud scenes as wind wailed outside.

"It was scary," he said. "It was so strong, blowing so fiercely."

Kaiwaidau heard a loud bang, then realised a big 10-year-old coconut tree had fallen onto his kitchen.

Thankfully there was no serious damage, but he'll need a carpenter to come fix the roof.

Kaiwaidau said he was one of the lucky ones, though.

Four people have died and one person is missing, but he's thankful no one in his area had lost their lives and that damage at his own place was minimal.

A badly damaged building in Fiji due to Cyclone Yasa. Source: Anglican Diocese of Polynesia

However, outside he described waist-high flood waters which have damaged buildings and the region, where electricity is still cut off.

'"It's like a warzone," he said.

"Most of us in the area still don't have power right now but we're resilient people, able to pick up the pieces and move on."

Kaiwaidau said the most difficult part was not being able to charge their phones.

He said he'd never experienced a weather event so bad.

Cyclone Yasa was the most powerful cyclone in the South Pacific since Cyclone Winston struck Fiji in 2016. Fortunately, Cyclone Yasa has weakened and no longer poses a threat to any Pacific island nation.

"We've never had a flood like this, it's scary for us," Kaiwaidau said.

But he is thankful his home is "strongly built" and his family had moved to safety at the time.

Your playlist will load after this ad

Around 850,000 Fijians are in the direct path of the monster storm. Source: 1 NEWS

About 260,000 people who depend on farming and agriculture have been impacted by Cyclone Yasa.

Kaiwaidau said the coronavirus pandemic had been "so devastating" for the world, but "for us I think it [the cyclone] will be the something we remember more than Covid-19".

According to Johns Hopkins University, Fiji has had 46 Covid-19 cases and two deaths.

Kaiwaidau said he was grateful for New Zealanders and the New Zealand government here who've offered assistance in the wake of the cyclone.

"It's so important to us," he said, adding that most people had children and were in need of food, clothing and other relief.

Floods left in the wake of Cyclone Yasa in Fiji. Source: Anglican Diocese of Polynesia

Tearfund is supporting the Anglican Mission in Fiji who have travelled to affected communities where the levels of destruction have been significant.

"Early reports indicate that there is widespread crop damage in addition to destroyed housing," the New Zealand-based aid and development organisation's chief executive Ian McInnes said.

"Tearfund and the Anglican Mission have expertise in establishing household level agricultural livelihoods - particularly their restoration following cyclones. Standing these livelihoods up again is essential as standing the houses back up."

Tearfund has had over $42,000 in donations from New Zealanders which will be used for aid in Fiji. People can donate online through Tearfund's website.

"We're coping. Life has to go on," Kaiwaidau  said.

Your playlist will load after this ad

The entire nation has been under curfew overnight with a state of natural disaster declared. Source: Breakfast