Fiji: Rebuilding a Resilient Pacific after Cyclone Winston

6 June 2016

Cyclone Winston was described as the strongest recorded tropical storm in Fiji’s history, reaching category five storm level, with wind gusts up to 325km per hour and wave surges of up to 12m high. Forty four lives were lost and the death toll could have been greater.

Archbishop Winston Halapua and Anglican Missions Board New Zealand’s (AMB) Projects Officer, the Revd Mike Hawke visited some of the affected areas in Fiji.

“The devastation caused to Fijian homes, businesses, plantations, schools, community halls, churches, electricity lines, wharfs, bridges, and boats has to be seen to be believed,” said Archbishop Winston.

Mike agreed: “Our first stop was the worst. Nothing could have prepared us for the absolute carnage we witnessed in the Anglican village of Maniyava, deep in the heart of Fiji and a long way off the beaten track. … Archbishop Winston lamented that he had never seen anything like it in his life.”

But Archbishop Winston is hopeful.

“People are caring for one another. They are pulling together to help. The Prime Minister and the Government here have acted promptly and effectively to co-ordinate rescue and relief work, and what Australia and New Zealand have already given is greatly appreciated.”

And he sees the hope of Easter mirrored in the plan to rebuild:

“See those guys in the dirt under that floor?

They’re the Easter message for me.

During the worst that Tropical Cyclone Winston could throw at their koro, or village – and Fiji has never known a cyclone of such terrible and destructive force – they sheltered there.

They spent four hours huddled together, with five other members of their family.

Soaked. Waiting, with lotu (prayer) and trembling, for the angel of death to pass.

They emerged from under the floor to new life.

Under that floor to me – that looks like the tomb.

And underneath the floor, you have the generations.

There’s the grandfather on the left, there’s the daughter-in-law, and that’s the grandchild.

Three generations: on Good Friday, we were all under the floor.

On Easter Day, we arise from there.

But when the people of Maniava came out from under their floors, there was nothing.

Nothing left standing.

But we are going to build again. Together.

We’re already doing so.

We’re already beginning to build a new and better life.

That’s the hope of Easter.”

 The Diocese responds

The disaster response plan – developed and agreed by the diocese in partnership with AMB on behalf of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ACANZP) – focuses on people, families and communities.

The approach will be to partner and work with those affected to support them as they help themselves to rebuild homes and lives brick by brick.

The Diocese of Polynesia has created the Tropical Cyclone Winston Care Committee, and mobilised clergy and lay people on the ground to offer pastoral support and immediate assistance, working in partnership with those affected. AMB staff have provided pastoral support and assessment assistance in Fiji.

The first stage of the response is focusing on the remote village of Maniava that Archbishop Winston and Mike visited.

Cyclone Winston devastated the small community, leaving 138 people homeless, including children and young people. The plan is to rebuild 33 stronger houses at an estimated average cost of $7,000 per unit.

Archbishop Winston is chairing the Care Committee and senior leaders in the diocese have been released to give priority time over the next two months to co-ordinate information and resources.

AMB has created the ACANZP Disaster Response Committee to support the diocese’s efforts. The Committee comprises the diocese’s Care Committee, three AMB staff and a media liaison person.


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Photo: Family sheltering under the floor as they did during the storm. Credit: AMB.


Prayer by Young People of Wailoku after the Cyclone Winston, Feb 2016

Dear Heavenly Father

We thank you for your love, care and protection.

We pray for those whose lives are being affected by cyclone Winston

those whose homes have been destroyed,

those who have lost loved ones,

those who are injured  or hurt in any way.

those who have no food or clothes.

We also pray for the people who are working tirelessly to help the affected.

We ask for your strength in their lives during this time.

We ask all this in Jesus Christ’s name.      Amen