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Powerful Cyclone Hits Fiji Causing Widespread Destruction, Several Deaths

  • VOA News

A tree blocks a road after it was blown down by the encroaching cyclone Winston in Nakasi, Fiji, Feb. 20, 2016.

A tree blocks a road after it was blown down by the encroaching cyclone Winston in Nakasi, Fiji, Feb. 20, 2016.

At least five people have been killed in a powerful cyclone that struck the South Pacific island nation of Fiji Saturday.

Authorities have begun deploying storm teams and clean-up crews throughout the island chain to assess the damage from Cyclone Winston, a category five storm with winds reaching 300 kilometers an hour and higher gusts, making it the strongest tropical cyclone ever in the Southern Hemisphere.

Initial reports say hundreds of homes have been destroyed, power lines are down and streets flooded across the archipelago.

The government has imposed a nationwide curfew in the country of 900,000 people and declared a month-long state of natural disaster. Scores of residents have sought shelter in evacuation centers set up across Fiji.

According to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center, category five Cyclone Winston hit the north coast of Viti Levu – the main and largest island of the more than 330-island archipelago.

The cyclone affected the popular tourist resorts in Viti Levu's west, which were closer to the cyclone's center.

A satellite image released by NASA Goddard Rapid Response shows Cyclone Winston in the South Pacific Ocean, Feb. 19, 2016. The Pacific island nation of Fiji readied as a formidable cyclone with winds of 300 kph (186 miles) bore down.

A satellite image released by NASA Goddard Rapid Response shows Cyclone Winston in the South Pacific Ocean, Feb. 19, 2016. The Pacific island nation of Fiji readied as a formidable cyclone with winds of 300 kph (186 miles) bore down.

Fiji's capital, Suva, located in the southern part of the island, experienced high winds but was not directly in the cyclone's path.

Local media reports said that the superstorm caused power outages after making landfall. Property damage was also reported.

Many domestic and international flights were canceled and hundreds of evacuation centers have been set up.

Fiji's prime minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, told Fijians: "As a nation, we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We must stick together as a people and look after each other. Be alert and be prepared."

The United Nations Humanitarian Agency (UNOCHA) had said Winston would likely bring "destructive winds, heavy rains, dangerous storm surge and a high risk of both flash and river flooding."

UNOCHA said it was ready to support the disaster management office if required.

WATCH: Related video of Cyclone Winston

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