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Cyclone Winston leaves trail of devastation in Fiji 21/02/2016

Officials in Fiji are desperately trying to implement relief efforts after Cyclone Winston ravaged the country a day ago. Several people have been killed, and aid agencies say a health disaster could be imminent.

Power outages and flooding hampered relief efforts in Fiji, a day after tropical cyclone Winston hit the archipelago with a speed of 325 kilometers per hour (202 mph). The strong winds and rains destroyed power lines across the country with a population of about 900,000 people.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama declared a 30-day emergency and said the death toll had gone up to five. A nationwide curfew was extended until Monday morning. "When we are able we will provide timelines for the return of water and power," he said on Sunday.

Residents in the capital, Suva, were lucky after the storm changed direction at the last minute, but hospitals were reported to have been damaged, the UN aid agency OCHA said. Ahmad Sami of the Red Cross' Pacific Office said priorities included an restoring power and repairing damaged homes as well as maintaining drinking water supplies in 750 evacuation centers.

Some villages reported large-scale destruction and officials were still assessing the full scale of the disaster, the United Nations Development Program's Jone Tuipelehaki said on Twitter

"The images that we're starting to see roll in are terrifying," Alice Clements, a UNICEF official based in Suva told reporters.

Potential health disaster

Meanwhile, aid agencies warned of a potential health crisis, caused mainly due to the lack of electricity. Health workers said people living in tin sheds in low-lying areas were particularly vulnerable.

"We need electricity to ensure pumps are working and for sterilization," Raijeli Nicole of Oxfam told Reuters news agency by telephone. She also said relief planes were being sent to assess the situation in remote areas.

© Provided by Deutsche Welle ZA New Zealand and Australia were sending a P-3 Orion aircraft to help with reconnaissance. Around 1,200 Australians were registered as being in Fiji, according to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop Flights from Australia to the popular destination would resume on Monday, Virgin Australia said.

The cyclone had meanwhile moved out to sea by Sunday, but heavy winds, accompanied by rains and swells could still be expected, Fiji's meteorological department said.

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