February 22, Suva: The death toll reached 20 and around 150 homes were destroyed in country Fiji by the cyclone Winston, the deadly storm calamity which hit the popular tourist destination on Saturday.
The island nation has declared a month-long state of natural disaster after the storm that Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama described as an assault on Fiji. Prime Minister declared a 30-day state of emergency. All schools, many of which are being used as evacuation centres, were ordered closed for one week and military leave has been cancelled so troops can help with the clean-up.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said food and medical supplies would be rapidly distributed to those affected. The Red Cross in Fiji said relief was starting to reach those affected.
According to UN's humanitarian agency, 150 homes were destroyed in the Eastern Division, while other reports said as many as 680 properties were destroyed in the Western Division.
International tourists began fleeing cyclone-devastated Fiji amid fears the death toll is set to rise steeply. The super-storm was the first maximum category five cyclone to hit Fiji and left a trail of destruction, flattening scores of homes and crippling infrastructure.
Many people remained hunkered down in hundreds of evacuation centers across the country, where they had headed before tropical cyclone Winston hit late Saturday, packing winds of up to 325 kph (200 mph).
The 10 fatalities were all along the western coast and were caused mainly by flying debris and drowning in storm surges citing authorities. There were also fears for seven fishermen believed to be missing at sea.
A curfew in place for more than 36 hours was lifted early on Monday, allowing the Fijian military to ramp up efforts to reach the more remote parts of the archipelago of about 300 islands.
"The Fijians are desperately trying to repair severed lines of communication, but they hold grave fears that the news waiting for them will be dire," said Oxfam Pacific Regional Director Raijeli Nicole.