At least 17 people were killed in Fiji after a record-breaking storm hit the island nation Saturday night, according to CNN, who cited a tweet from CARE Australia that had information from Fiji’s government.
Winds that reached 184 mph jolted the tiny island nation in the Pacific, toppling trees, knocking out power and causing heavy flooding, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center reported.
“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,” Bainimarama is reported as saying.
There are reports that thousands left their homes for shelters and that power outages were widespread. Officials are still urging 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.
This clean up and securing safe travel conditions will take time according to Bainimarama.
A nationwide curfew remains in effect as emergency crews are clearing roads of downed trees and trying to restore power.
Nadi International Airport reopened Monday morning after being close for two days. Operations are back to normal with only a few cancellations, according to airport staff.
However, schools in Fiji will be closed for one week, the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management said.
“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 has declared a state of emergency that will be in effect for 30 days, according to the Fiji Times.
Despite the name cyclone, the storm is what many in the United States know as a hurricane. In the Northeast Pacific, these storms are known as typhoons. Even with the different nomenclature, all three are the same type of storm.