In Fiji, 17 dead from ‘monster’ Cyclone Winston; schools shuttered for a week

Updated 1:35 AM EST, Mon February 22, 2016
cyclone winston fiji watson lok_00010221.jpg
Fiji TV
cyclone winston fiji watson lok_00010221.jpg
Now playing
02:12
Tropical Cyclone Winston turns deadly in Fiji
title: M. C. Schidlowsky on Instagram: "Fire tornado destroyed our line. It threw burning logs across our guard for 45 minutes and pulled our hose 100 plus ft in the air before..." duration: 00:00:00 site: Instagram author: null published: Wed Dec 31 1969 19:00:00 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time) intervention: no description: null
Mary Schidlowsky
title: M. C. Schidlowsky on Instagram: "Fire tornado destroyed our line. It threw burning logs across our guard for 45 minutes and pulled our hose 100 plus ft in the air before..." duration: 00:00:00 site: Instagram author: null published: Wed Dec 31 1969 19:00:00 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time) intervention: no description: null
Now playing
00:41
See 'firenado' snatch firefighter's hose
A photojournalist walks amongst plastic debris blown by strong winds in the residential district of Heng Fa Chuen during Super Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong on September 16, 2018. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)
Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images
A photojournalist walks amongst plastic debris blown by strong winds in the residential district of Heng Fa Chuen during Super Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong on September 16, 2018. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:16
The planet's strongest storm, Typhoon Mangkhut, hits Asia
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - JULY 15:  (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Self-Defense Force members continue searching operation on July 15, 2018 in Hiroshima, Japan. More than 100 people were treated for heatstroke as scorching summer heat baked western Japan prefectures hit by recent torrential deluges.  (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - JULY 15: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Self-Defense Force members continue searching operation on July 15, 2018 in Hiroshima, Japan. More than 100 people were treated for heatstroke as scorching summer heat baked western Japan prefectures hit by recent torrential deluges. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:38
More than 200 dead as heavy rain pounds Japan
Date07/22/2018 08:36 Duration00:00:58 Edit No7104 Copyright(c) 2018 Thomson Reuters, unless otherwise identified. Full statement available at https://www.thomsonreuters.com/en/copyright.html RestrictionsBroadcasters: NO USE VIETNAM Digital: NO USE VIETNAM . For Reuters customers only. Source FormatHD AudioNATURAL WITH VIETNAMESE NARRATION LocationsYEN BAI/ LAO CAI/PHU THO, VIETNAM SourceVTV Revision2 TopicsDisaster/Accidents,Floods Source News FeedsCore News IDtag:reuters.com,2018:newsml_WD8PTXJ5X:2
REUTERS
Date07/22/2018 08:36 Duration00:00:58 Edit No7104 Copyright(c) 2018 Thomson Reuters, unless otherwise identified. Full statement available at https://www.thomsonreuters.com/en/copyright.html RestrictionsBroadcasters: NO USE VIETNAM Digital: NO USE VIETNAM . For Reuters customers only. Source FormatHD AudioNATURAL WITH VIETNAMESE NARRATION LocationsYEN BAI/ LAO CAI/PHU THO, VIETNAM SourceVTV Revision2 TopicsDisaster/Accidents,Floods Source News FeedsCore News IDtag:reuters.com,2018:newsml_WD8PTXJ5X:2
Now playing
02:49
Over 20 killed by flooding in Vietnam
Photos provided by Lakewood Church on Monday show a flooded building.

Televangelist pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church took on water Monday, according to Lakewood spokesman Donald ILoff. The water have since receded, Iloff tells CNN and the church will be used as a shelter and donation center for Harvey victims. The church does have a flood wall in place but out of caution they will only allow several hundred people to stay on the 2nd floor of the church.
Lakewood Church
Photos provided by Lakewood Church on Monday show a flooded building. Televangelist pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church took on water Monday, according to Lakewood spokesman Donald ILoff. The water have since receded, Iloff tells CNN and the church will be used as a shelter and donation center for Harvey victims. The church does have a flood wall in place but out of caution they will only allow several hundred people to stay on the 2nd floor of the church.
Now playing
01:43
Floods pose more health risks than you may think
CNN
Now playing
00:36
Irma has left Barbuda uninhabitable
Reuters/U PYINNYA LINKARA
Now playing
01:13
Floods cause devastation in Asia
china landslides typhoon megi orig_00002421.jpg
china landslides typhoon megi orig_00002421.jpg
Now playing
00:45
Landslide pummels town
Courtesy Anne and Chris Mackie
Now playing
01:13
Firenado turns into a giant water spout
KEYT
Now playing
01:57
Heatwave, winds fuel deadly fast-moving fires
This picture taken on July 26, 2015 shows a child playing in a fountain on a square to cool himself amid a heatwave in Binzhou, eastern China's Shandong province.   CHINA OUT     AFP PHOTO        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on July 26, 2015 shows a child playing in a fountain on a square to cool himself amid a heatwave in Binzhou, eastern China's Shandong province. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:14
What NOT to do in a heat wave
Fire burns in Karbole, Sweden, on July 15, 2018. - Due to the dry weather, 80 wildfires burned in Sweden. (Photo by Mats ANDERSSON / TT News Agency / AFP) / Sweden OUT        (Photo credit should read MATS ANDERSSON/AFP/Getty Images)
MATS ANDERSSON/AFP/Getty Images
Fire burns in Karbole, Sweden, on July 15, 2018. - Due to the dry weather, 80 wildfires burned in Sweden. (Photo by Mats ANDERSSON / TT News Agency / AFP) / Sweden OUT (Photo credit should read MATS ANDERSSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:07
Wildfires and deadly heat waves around the world
Heatwave in Asia
Reuters
Heatwave in Asia
Now playing
02:20
Scorching temperatures turn deadly in Asia
A man wipes the sweat from his face in the scorching heat at a business district in Tokyo, Monday, July 23, 2018. Searing hot temperatures are forecast for wide swaths of Japan and South Korea in a long-running heat wave. The mercury is expected to reach 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday in the city of Nagoya in central Japan and reach 37 in Tokyo. Deaths have been reported almost every day. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Koji Sasahara/AP
A man wipes the sweat from his face in the scorching heat at a business district in Tokyo, Monday, July 23, 2018. Searing hot temperatures are forecast for wide swaths of Japan and South Korea in a long-running heat wave. The mercury is expected to reach 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday in the city of Nagoya in central Japan and reach 37 in Tokyo. Deaths have been reported almost every day. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Now playing
01:19
Japan suffers record-breaking heat wave
Getty Images
Now playing
01:22
Record-breaking super typhoon

Story highlights

New: Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimaram says people are left stunned and confused

Fiji reports that 17 people are dead and that damage and flooding are widespread

All schools in Fiji will stay closed for a week, disaster management agency says

CNN —  

At least 17 people were killed in Fiji when a record-breaking storm struck the island nation Saturday night, according to a CARE Australia tweet citing Fiji’s government.

Now that Tropical Cyclone Winston has passed, the arduous tasks of cleanup and damage assessment from the most powerful storm on record in the Southern Hemisphere has begun, authorities say.

“Many people have been left stunned and confused about what to do,” Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said after the storm passed. “The damage has been widespread, homes have been destroyed, many low lying areas have been flooded,” CNN affiliate TVNZ in New Zealand reported him as saying.

There are reports of widespread power outages and thousands who left their homes for shelters.

One man posted a video from Suva, the country’s capital, of electrical power lines exploding one after another as the cyclone hit.

Officials continue to ask people to stay indoors.

“There is a great deal of debris on our roads, power lines have gone down, and iron, glass and other hazardous materials pose serious threats to our community,” Bainimarama said.

Getting roads cleared and secured will take time, he said.

A nationwide curfew remains in effect as emergency crews clear roads of downed trees and restore power.

Nadi International Airport reopened Monday morning after being close for two days. Operations there are back to normal with few cancellations, according to airport staff.

Schools, however, will be closed in Fiji for one week, the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management said.

Winds that reached 184 mph lashed the tiny island nation in the Pacific, felling trees, knocking out power and causing heavy flooding before it made landfall about 7 p.m. Saturday (2 a.m. ET), reported the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

“Winston was a monster of a cyclone,” Fiji resident Nazeem Kasim told CNN. “I have not experienced anything like this before in my life, nor has my 60-year-old father.”

The government declared a state of emergency that will be in effect for 30 days, according to the Fiji Times.

A nationwide curfew remains in effect as emergency crews clear roads of downed trees and restore power.

Breaking records

CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said Winston is expected to “keep strength as it continues on its path in open waters.” But, he said, “it will weaken Tuesday or Wednesday once it hits cooler waters and stronger shear.”

This map showed a forecast track for the storm from early Sunday through early Wednesday Fiji time.
This map showed a forecast track for the storm from early Sunday through early Wednesday Fiji time.

Winston’s 184-mph winds smashed the previous record for a Southern Hemisphere cyclone. The old record of 178 mph was shared by Cyclone Zoe, which battered the Solomon Islands in 2002, and Cyclone Monica, which walloped Australia in 2006, according to Colorado State University hurricane expert Philip Klotzbach.

Had it occurred in the Atlantic, Winston would have been a Category 5 hurricane, but because of hemispheric nomenclature, it’s dubbed a cyclone. (In the Northwest Pacific, it would be a typhoon; all three are the same weather phenomenon.)

Concerns for smaller villages

“It is likely that smaller villages across Fiji will have suffered the most, given their infrastructures would be too weak to withstand the power of a category 5 cyclone,” said Suva resident Alice Clements, a spokeswoman for UNICEF in the Pacific.

“Families may have lost their homes and crops, therefore leaving them without shelter, food and a livelihood.”

Although not hit directly, the capital, Suva, endured damaging gale-force winds, heavy rain and power outages. Clements, who was in Suva when the storm struck, said the city experienced “destructive, howling winds, and the sound of rivets lifting from roofs a constant throughout the night.”

More than 1,200 people were in evacuation centers around the country, the disaster management ministry said.

The Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva suffered extensive water damage, and the roof of a local hospital was blown off in the northwestern town of Ba, said Sune Gudnitz, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs regional office for the Pacific.

Widespread flash flooding and coastal inundation – flooding in normally dry land – “is likely as storm surges may push the sea inland several hundred meters,” the Red Cross said.

The western city of Nadi, on Fiji’s main island, suffered minor wind damage but experienced extensive flooding, CNN affiliate TVNZ reported.

Fiji, an archipelago collectively about the size of New Jersey, lies in the South Pacific Ocean some 1,800 miles from Australia’s east coast. (By comparison, Hawaii is about 2,500 miles from Los Angeles.)

Most of the nation’s 900,000 residents live on one of two main islands: Viti Levu or Vanua Levu.

CNN’s Savannah Pratt, Gregory D’Avis Brian Walker, Zahra Ullah, Brandon Miller, Sara Mazloumsaki, Tina Burnside and Archith Seshadri contributed to this report.