Posted by staff Reporter
Relief supplies have started arriving in Fiji as the country begins the massive job of cleaning up after Cyclone Winston, which has killed at least 29 people.
The most powerful storm in the country's recorded history barrelled into Fiji's main island of Viti Levu and neighbouring smaller islands late on Saturday, destroying entire villages, flooding low-lying areas, and wiping out crops.
The death toll in Fiji from Cyclone Winston has risen to 29, and one island has been nearly flattened, the Fijian government says.
An RNZAF Hercules has arrived in Nadi with 12 tonnes of relief supplies including water ration packs and chainsaws.
Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy, the Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said defence force personnel were also helping assess the cyclone's impact.
Government spokesman Ewan Perrin told Morning Report the island of Koro appeared to have taken a direct hit, with eight bodies found there yesterday.
Mr Perrin said 2000 families lived on the island "and it has been pretty much flattened. There are very few buildings left".
Two vessels carrying medical aid, food and water were expected to arrive at Koro this morning, he said.
More than 8000 people remain in hundreds of evacuation centres throughout the Fijian islands, and thousands throughout the 300 islands of the archipelago would be displaced for months, he said.
As well, the death toll was expected to continue rising.
Radio New Zealand International reporter Alex Perrottet, who is in Nadi, said a water shortage and shelter were the most pressing concerns as Fijians started to rebuild their homes.
Water tankers were deployed during the recent droughts and people were again having to collect rain water in buckets.
"We were told that those tanks would be used and reused for emergency situations. We haven't seen or heard any word about whether they've been deployed yet," he said.
"People would be seriously after those things but they're also calling just for tarpaulins, just to be able to build some temporary shelters."
Perrottet said the effects of the cyclone further north and west in Fiji was likely to be more serious.
However, the cyclone had not dented the big-heartedness of Fijians, who were still offering hospitality to strangers.