Story at a glance
- Cyclone Yasa, a top category 5 storm, made landfall in Bua Province on the northern island of Vanua Levu Thursday evening.
- Scores of homes were destroyed and roads were blocked by landslides, flash flooding and downed trees.
- Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama called the disaster a “climate emergency.”
A powerful cyclone pounded the low-lying Pacific island nation of Fiji on Thursday, leaving at least two people dead and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage.
Cyclone Yasa, a top category 5 storm, made landfall in the Bua Province on the northern island of Vanua Levu Thursday evening, bringing torrential rain, widespread flooding and maximum sustained winds of almost 180 miles per hour.
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama confirmed a 45-year-old man in Labasa died when the home he was in collapsed on him, and a three-month-old baby had also been killed by the cyclone.
Scores of homes were destroyed and roads were blocked by landslides, flash flooding and downed trees.
Officials said the cyclone in its direct path affected more than 93,000 Fijians, and the number of deaths could rise when communications are restored and the government begins its recovery phase. Officials said more than 23,000 people are currently in 456 evacuation centers across Fiji.
While the storm has weakened in strength as it moves south, officials remain concerned about heavy rains and more flooding.
Ahead of the storm Thursday, Fiji declared a nationwide state of emergency and imposed a curfew that required the whole country of nearly 1 million people to remain inside for 14 hours overnight.
Bainimarama, who has argued climate change is making extreme weather events like cyclones more common, noted that the cyclone hit eight years to the day Cyclone Evan pounded Fiji. Evan is considered to be one of the worst tropical cyclones to hit the island.
“On this same day in 2012, Fiji was enduring Cyclone Evan. Since then, we’ve been battered by 12 more cyclones — two of which (Winston and Yasa) are now jockeying for our hemisphere’s strongest-ever storm in history,” he tweeted.
“This is not normal. This is a climate emergency.”
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