ONE YEAR ON
Tropical Cyclone Winston was the strongest storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, causing widespread devastation across Fiji, especially in the islands of Koro, Gau, Lau and towns such as Korovou, Rakiraki, Tavua, Ba and Lautoka. With a wind speed of 185mph estimated by satellite, Winston made landfall in Fiji on 20 February 2016. It was catergorised as a Level Five cyclone and by far the worst cylone to hit the region. Winston’s metamorphism into a Category Five was a slow one. The storm was named Winston on February 10, when it was located to the west of Fiji. Over the next 10 days, Winston moved first to the south of Fiji, then to the east before stopping and reversing course 180 degrees. It was after this about-face that the storm strengthened explosively in highly conducive atmospheric and oceanic conditions. Rakiraki Hardware Store manager Ashneel Asish, who was born and bred in Rakiraki, described Cyclone Winston as a nightmare. “It’s the first time I encountered a cyclone of such magnitude and I do not want to see another one like that again,” he said. Asish lives at Wairuku just a five minute drive from Rakiraki town. He said they had to go to higher ground and the business suffered losses amounting to about $60,000. “We are coping but at a slow pace,” he said. Rakiraki villager, 77 year old Isikeli Naitura said he had witnessed two devastating cyclones in his time – an unnamed cyclone in 1952 when he was just 12 and Cyclone Bebe in 1972 when he was 32. “But the destruction Cyclone Winston left behind is by far the worst I have seen. Winston left us hungry, thirsty and totally lost.” Like many Fijians around the country who were devastated by the storm last year, Naitura has a resilient attitude. “We are people of strong character, we have picked up the pieces and moved on,” he said. “Cyclone Winston tested us but we were not disheartened as we kept moving on with our lives,” he said. Store Manager at Adam’s Supermarket in Rakiraki, Manor Kumar said Cyclone Winston was a frightening experience, but she learnt a lot from it. “I saw the best in people offering to help one another, no matter how much they had personally lost.” she said. One year later people are still picking up the pieces but spirits are strong – stronger than the mighty force of Winston.
The hoisting of the Fiji flag and people managing to smile for the cameras was a humbling sight as people tried to salvage what was left