When help finally arrived on Koro Island and the media flew in to bear witness, the scenes were of total devastation.
The sign pointing to Sinuvaca village is still, there but the village itself has vanished. Torn apart by the category 5 severe tropical cyclone.
Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley writes in his third editorial in his Cyclone Winston series:
“When problems disappear” …
You only have to look at pictures from the island of Koro to understand and appreciate the strength of what was the strongest cyclone to ever hit Fiji.
Fiji Times photographer Jona Konataci flew to Koro early yesterday morning and returned with pictures that told a story of pain and helplessness. His pictures brought to life the predicament of the people of Koro and spoke of the vulnerability of human beings in the face of mother-nature.
Against a system that was powerful and massive, the people of Koro could only hold on to hope, and pray for an end to the frightening fury of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.
It rained on Saturday. That wasn’t the problem though. The rain came in with the cold. But the people of Koro were not prepared for a massive system such as Severe TC Winston.
Cut a path
Packed with average winds of up to 220kmh and momentary gusts of up to 315kmh an hour close to its centre, Severe TC Winston, now a fully-fledged Category 5 mega-storm, swept over Lau, and moved west to cut a path through Lomaiviti.
Koro Island was right in the way. It met the cyclone head on. It was a nightmare. It was terrifying.
Roofs were torn off by the ferocious winds. Homes were blown away and concrete structures looked like they had been pounded by a tank. Nothing, it appeared could withstand the fury and the immense power of Severe TC Winston.
Death stared at the people of Koro.
Of the total number of homes destroyed around the country, 315 alone were on Koro.
The pictures you will see in today’s edition tell a story of destruction. However, there is a touch of hope lurking somewhere there.
Like many other Fijians, the people of Koro are resilient.
As Konataci shot his pictures at the devastated village of Sinuvaca, children posed beside their destroyed school library, standing beside shelves that surprisingly still held neat rows of books.
Out towards one end of the village, a group of men held on to the signpost that pointed out their village.
It read “Sinuvaca Vill”, shortened for “village”.
The only difference was that it now pointed towards a village that was no longer there, flattened by Severe TC Winston.
Out on the waterfront, children playfully pushed each other to be seen in a picture taken by Konataci.
Rather instinctively, they gave the victory sign. They smiled for the camera.
Severe TC Winston was gone. They were back to being village children.
As the state machinery shifts a gear to attend to their plight this week, they are beacons of hope for us all.
Innocent, playful and friendly, they can still manage smiles in the face of great adversity. For a few minutes, all the troubles in their little world disappeared.
The harsh reality though is that they need urgent assistance as do thousands of others in affected areas around the country.
We can only hope you will keep them in your thoughts today.