Fiji's powerful cyclone kills at least 20, forces tourists out

Fiji's powerful cyclone kills at least 20, forces tourists out

PanARMENIAN.Net - Tourists began fleeing cyclone-ravaged Fiji Monday, February 22 and aid efforts intensified as the death toll climbed to 20, with officials warning it could rise further as reports trickle in from devastated remote communities, AFP reports.

Aerial photographs revealed entire villages were flattened when severe tropical cyclone Winston struck overnight Saturday, lashing the Pacific island nation with gusts of 325 kilometres per hour.

"The images emerging from early aerial assessments of affected areas are truly heartbreaking, leaving little doubt about the ferocity of this cyclone," said the UN's Fiji coordinator Osnat Lubrani.

"It is clear from these catastrophic impacts that Fiji is facing a long road to recovery."

Winston, the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, razed scores of homes, crippled infrastructure and forced terrified residents to shelter in evacuation centres.

Photographs taken from a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane showed the devastation in remote villages that bore the brunt.

Many homes were reduced to piles of kindling, with roofing and furniture strewn about by winds that were strong enough to strip leaves and branches from trees.

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