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Aftermath of Cyclone Winston

21 February 2016, Emergencies

Thousands of homes likely to have been destroyed in strongest storm to hit Fiji on record.

Save the Children is bracing for the worst and a focus on children’s education as the scale of devastation emerges following the most powerful cyclone ever in Fiji.

Already one death has been confirmed while thousands of homes are likely to have been destroyed. Cyclone Winston packed winds of up to 325km per hour, snapping tree trunks in half, damaging key infrastructure and bending metal power poles.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this. The noise was frightening as roofs were blown off homes and trees were ripped out by their roots,” Save the Children Fiji CEO Iris Low-McKenzie said.

“I’m especially concerned about the remote communities in outlying areas that we haven’t been able to contact yet. Until communications are re-established and we can assess the damage, we won’t know the full extent of situation.

“What we do know is that this mega storm will have had a massive impact on children, and their needs and wellbeing will be among the highest priorities in the coming days and weeks.”

Save the Children has teams standing by to assess the damage once the curfew lifts, and teachers ready to support children in evacuation centres. To start, the aid agency will operate special playgroups for children staying in some of the 700-plus evacuation centres across the country.

The ‘child friendly space’ provides children with a safe and fun place to spend time while giving parents the much needed opportunity to assess the damage.

Meanwhile aid workers from Save the Children globally are gearing up to deploy to the worst affected areas. The aid agency has launched an urgent appeal for funds to help reach thousands of children through education and child protection activities.

“The situation in Fiji is critical and will be for some time. The island nation has never been hit by a storm like this before, and will need a lot of help to recover,” Ms Low-McKenzie said.

“Right now it’s important that the international community unites behind Fiji, and urgently helps fund the emergency response.”

Save the Children has stockpiled emergency supplies to ensure children return to school as soon as possible. This includes school bags, classroom kits and child friendly spaces kits for evacuation centres if schools are damaged.

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