PHOTOS: Tropical Cyclone Winston Kills 10 in Fiji

Jonacani Lalakobau/Fiji Times via AP
Jonacani Lalakobau/Fiji Times via AP

Tropical Cyclone Winston killed at least ten people on Saturday when it tore through Fiji, located 1,800 miles from Australia.

Winds reached 184 miles per hour, knocking down trees and destroying homes as the cyclone moved through the island.

The Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management closed schools for at least a week. The government has opened 900 evacuation stations and also imposed a 6 p.m. curfew.

The officials declared a 30-day state of emergency.

Meteorologists call hurricanes in southwest Pacific severe tropical cyclones. Storms in the Atlantic and northwest Pacific receive the title hurricane. Scientists call hurricanes in northwest Pacific typhoons. To receive any of those titles, the storm must have winds at 74 mph. Winds of 150 mph give a storm the label “intense hurricane.”

About 900,000 people call Fiji home, living mainly on the Viti Levu and Vanua Levu islands.

Tropical Cyclone Winston now holds the title as the “strongest landfalling tropical cyclone on record in the South Pacific archipelago” with 185 mph winds. The Weather Channel reports:

At that time, Winston’s eye was over Fiji’s Koro Island, making it second only to Super Typhoon Haiyan as the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone on record for the planet, according to Weather Underground’s director of meteorology, Dr. Jeff Masters.

Masters said Winston’s estimated winds over Koro Island, Fiji, were equal to the estimated winds at landfall of the infamous Labor Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys and stronger than Hurricane Camille’s winds at landfall in 1969, though Camille’s eyewall destroyed wind instruments along the Gulf Coast.

Cyclone Zoe, in 2002, and Cyclone Monica, in 2006, caused 178 mph winds. Meteorologists would have given Winston a category 5 rating if it occurred in the Atlantic.

“It is likely that smaller villages across Fiji will have suffered the most, given their infrastructures would be too weak to withstand the power of a category 5 cyclone,” stated resident Alice Clements, a spokeswoman for UNICEF in the Pacific. “Families may have lost their homes and crops, therefore leaving them without shelter, food and a livelihood.”

The government has accounted for all tourists on the island, including country singer Darryl Worley and his wife Kimberly. The majority of hotels did not receive significant damage.

“Winston was a monster of a cyclone,” described resident Nazeem Kasim. “I have not experienced anything like this before in my life, nor has my 60-year-old father.”