Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk
Cyclone Keni has moved out of Fijian waters and lies about 275km south-southwest of the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa, reports Pacnews.
The Fiji Met Service said the cyclone still remains a category three storm, with winds between 130 and 185km/h still blowing.
At its peak, average wind gusts were up to 195km/h.
Keni was forecast to weaken as it continued to move southeast into cooler waters.
Within the next 18 hours the storm could cease to be a cyclone, said Met Service.
Cyclone Keni wreaked havoc as it passed the southern islands of Fiji overnight bringing destructive winds and downpours causing flooding.
The Fiji government said all schools being used as evacuation centres would remain closed today as well as all schools on Kadavu
Kadavu suffers direct hit
Some homes collapsed and a school suffered serious damage on Kadavu at the height of Tropical Cyclone Keni last night, reports the Fiji Sun.
Anare Leweniqila, director of National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), said Kadavu appeared to be the worst hit area.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said yesterday that the government had received reports of damage to homes in Kadavu and the school in Vunisea.
“At 5pm this afternoon TC Keni is still very much in our waters, so there will be damaging winds,” said Bainimarama.
Cyclone Keni did not make landfall and it was approximately 95 km east south east of Kadavu. It was moving away last night.
Leweniqila said they would send an assessment team to Kadavu as soon as the weather permitted.
He said they did not have details of the damage.
Commissioner Eastern Luke Moroivalu confirmed receiving a report that some houses had been destroyed.
“The last report I received from the village was some dwelling houses had fallen,” he said.
He said communication to Kadavu was cut off before he could get more details.
In an earlier interview before Cyclone Keni hit, the headman (turaganikoro), Kalivati Tukutukulevu, said the village was prepared and they had eight evacuation centres, including the village hall.
Tukutukulevu said they were experiencing strong winds and they were prepared for the cyclone.
“Villages of Ono, Buliya, Dravuni and Kokomo have been told to move to their evacuation centres,” he said.
The Fiji island of Kadavu suffered a direct hit with homes destroyed, trees uprooted and boats capsized on the island’s south side.
Jacquelyn Paul’s Cyclone Keni video report – “Keep Fiji in your prayers”
Storm ‘came out of nowhere’
Luke Kerchevale, co-owner of Matava Resort on Kadavu, said the storm seemed to come out of nowhere, reports Pacnews.
“Quite a large boat is capsized because we couldn’t get it to shelter soon enough. We’ve had a number of huge mango trees come down on a lot of our buildings,” said Kerchevale.
Kerchevale and co-owner Mark, who are both from Australia, said thankfully all of their staff and guests were safe but Kerchevale said they were really worried for people in the nearby villages.
“They are really struggling. A lot of the villages have lost their houses completely. We have got a small village next to us who have had to do a walk around the mountain to get to us for shelter because they have lost everything where they are…it was pretty full on,” Kerchevale said.
Kerchevale said they would head out to check on people in the villages once they were sure the cyclone had passed and they were able to clear debris from around the resort.
On the nearby island of Ono-Kadavu, local Paul Ragede said strong winds from the cyclone raged for over two hours.
Ragede said his village was fortunate that a lot of their buildings were strong structures but people he has contacted at Vunisea, the main government station on Kadavu, say there has been a lot of destruction.
‘Like pieces of paper’
“It is really bad. The secondary school library there at Vunisea has gone down, the post master’s office, root crops and all the big big trees have been like folded as if they were pieces of paper,” Ragede said.
Fiji’s meteorological service said Nadi and the south-west of Viti Levu have escaped the worst effects of the Tropical Cyclone.
Fijian Metservice director Ravindra Kumar said the category three system changed direction late on Tuesday afternoon and sped up towards the south-east.
Kumar said this meant the strongest hurricane force winds were over water and didn’t make land-fall on Viti Levu.
Meanwhile, seven teams from the Fiji Red Cross Society (FRCS) are ready to be deployed as soon as the flood waters recede in flooded areas in the Western Division, reports Pacnews.
FRCS Spokesperson Maciu Bolaitamana said they were currently monitoring the situation, as most parts of the Western Division are flooded.
“First and foremost is to go out into the field and make our assessment and come back and analyse these assessments and see where the distribution fits in these areas,” said Bolaitamana.
Bolaitamana said they would only distribute non-food items, including hygiene kits, dignity kits for pregnant mothers, water cans and purification tablets.
Residents in the West have begun cleaning up following the devastation caused by Cyclone Keni, reports FBC News.
Municipal council workers in Nadi, Lautoka and Ba have begun clearing debris that was brought in by flooding and strong winds.
Fiji Electricity Authority and Water Authority officials are also working to restore power and water supply.
People who were taking shelter at around 80 evacuation centres are expected to return to their homes today.
It will take some time for the people to get their lives and homes back to normal.