Editorial comment – Let’s heed cyclone warning

Nakasaleka District School teacher's quarters damaged during Cyclone Keni on Kadavu. Picture: SUPPLIED

Nakasaleka District School teacher's quarters damaged during Cyclone Keni on Kadavu. Picture: SUPPLIED

As election campaigns intensify around the country, we are now advised to brace ourselves for at least two tropical cyclones predicted to hit us in our cyclone season.

Given the nature of the campaigns by the various political parties, and the intensity with which they are hitting the masses with their messages, attention is obviously focused on November 14.

We can never shrug aside warnings about the possibility of cyclones though.

We do so at our own risk. Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in February 2016 basically changed the way we should be looking at natural disasters.

In this cyclone window, between November and April next year, the chances, it seems, are high that two cyclones could be hitting our country.

That’s the word from permanent secretary for the Ministry of National Disaster Management and Meteorological Services Meleti Bainimarama.

He said the two cyclones were predicted to be Category 3 cyclones or even stronger.

The Fiji Meteorological Service, he said, further predicted an elevated risk of tropical cyclones for the northern and eastern parts of the country, while seven to nine tropical cyclones were expected to hit the region covering the Solomon Islands and French Polynesia.

While the tropical cyclone season is normally from November to April next year, he said, the current season had already seen a tropical cyclone forming near the Solomon Islands in September this year.

“We, therefore, advise all communities to remain alert and prepared throughout the 2018-2019 tropical cyclone season and, in particular, to take heed of alerts, warnings and advisories issued by both the Fiji Meteorological Service and the National Disaster Management Office.”

No one would have thought about the impact a Category 5 system such as Winston could have on our nation. Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston went past us in a blaze of fury and power in 2016.

In its wake, Winston left behind a trail of destruction that the State and people had never experienced before.

The official line at the time, days after the cyclone had swept past us was that people had died in the wake of Winston’s severe beating of many parts of Fiji.

The power Winston unleashed on the country was shocking.

Picking up strength after Tonga, Winston developed into a massive Category 5 system that was frightening.

It was unpredictable.

At first the projected path curved through the Lau Group and pointed to the southwest of Viti Levu.

It was expected to pass pretty close to the Capital City.

Winston had other ideas. Picking up power, Winston moved straight to the west, cutting through Lau, Lomaiviti, and brushed over Ra before curving down south again.

In its wake, it left flattened houses, uprooted trees, roof-less homes, flooding, frightened people, and death.

Scenes of destruction met first responders. We must remind ourselves today about the impact of such natural disasters.

We must be prepared.

We have been warned.

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