Disease could deal double-whammy to cyclone-hit Fiji

Disease could deal a double-whammy to cyclone-ravaged Fiji

Fiji is prone to violent storms at this time of year, with Cyclone Winston killing 44 people when it slammed into the islands in 2016

A resident standing in front of his destroyed house in the aftermath of Cyclone Yasa in northern Bua on Vanua Levu Island of Fiji. Credit: AFP

Disease threatens to worsen an already desperate situation in Fiji, an official warned Sunday, where thousands of lives have been devastated in the wake of the deadly super cyclone Yasa.

Agencies rushed food and clean water to areas where the storm smashed into the northern islands of the South Pacific nation on Thursday night, forcing more than 23,000 people to flee their homes.

Four people died and entire villages were wiped out, with crops and livestock destroyed.

Agriculture officials are being sent to hard-hit areas to help farmers dispose of dead livestock to reduce the risk of disease, National Disaster Management Office director Vasiti Soko said.

Fiji is prone to violent storms at this time of year, with Cyclone Winston killing 44 people when it slammed into the islands in 2016.

"We're going to be doing a lot of work around shelter and the provision of clean water because we have seen the diseases that follow these cyclones... leptospirosis, diarrhoea, dengue, and especially if access to hospitals is limited," Ilisapeci Rokotunidau, the Fiji Red Cross director general, told AFP.

"From our experience from Winston, three months after Winston one of the biggest things was malnutrition."

Authorities on Saturday put the damage from the storm in the hundreds of millions of dollars, with one senior aid worker comparing the destruction to a war zone.

The Red Cross is now focused on providing relief to Bua and other areas in the north of Fiji hit hard by the storm.

One local man who had lost his job in the major city of Nadi due to the Covid-19 pandemic and returned to Bua to rebuild his life was reported to have lost everything after the super cyclone hit.

"Now, everything is gone and he is saying 'there is no more use in living'," Rokotunidau said. "We suspect that is the beginning of stories we will be hearing."

"The sad thing for a lot of people is 'what now'. Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of year and this is going to be a very dismal one."