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02 March 2024

Fiji death toll rises to 42 [video]

This handout photograph taken on February 22, 2016 and provided by Naziah Ali of Mai Life Magazine shows damage at a service station after Cyclone Winston hit Fiji, in the city of Ba in western Fiji. Humanitarian aid began pouring into Fiji on February 23 as the death toll from super-cyclone Winston rose to 29 and officials warned the devastated Pacific nation's recovery could take months. (AFP)

By Agencies
Update: The death toll from the Fiji super-cyclone hit 42 on Wednesday, officials said, with fears it will rise further as relief teams reach isolated communities. "42 Fijians now confirmed dead -- disaster officials continue to deploy team to help those affected across Fiji," government spokesman Dan Gavidi tweeted. The acting head of the Red Cross's Pacific office Ahmad Sami said more fatalities were coming to light as data came in from remote communities. "The numbers will continue to change as we have better access to information and establish communications," he told AFP.

Ten people have died on a single small island in Fiji as the total death toll from a powerful cyclone climbed to 29, officials said Tuesday.

Government spokesman Ewan Perrin said the death toll on Koro Island had reached double figures and that most buildings there had been heavily damaged or flattened.

He said a relief vessel with about 30 people aboard had arrived at the island with medical supplies, food and water, and teams were helping build temporary shelters for the 4,500 residents.

"It's one of the worst hit," Perrin said.

He said officials also have fears about nearby Taveuni Island, home to about 12,000 people, because they've managed to have only limited contact with people there.

Winds from Cyclone Winston, which tore through the Pacific Island chain Saturday and early Sunday, reached 177 miles (285 kilometers) per hour, making it the strongest storm in Fiji's recorded history.

Getting emergency supplies to the group's far-flung islands and remote communities has been the Fiji government's top priority.

Alice Clements, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, said the aerial footage coming in showed a corridor of destruction over places like Koro Island.

"The imagery is heartbreaking," she said. "You're looking down and expecting to see a village and instead you're seeing a field of debris."

She said one priority is to ensure children get back to school because studies have shown it helps them recover faster emotionally.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General Stephen O'Brien said in a statement he was concerned by the devastating impact the cyclone was having on Fiji.

"Whole villages have been destroyed, homes and crops have been damaged, power lines have been cut and more than 8,100 people are currently sheltering in over 70 evacuation centers," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said Fiji was leading the response and had asked for international help. Australia has so far pledged 5 million Australian dollars ($3.6 million) in aid and New Zealand has pledged [New Zealand] $2 million (US$1.3m).