SUVA (The Fiji Times/Pacific Media Watch): Gradually it is sinking in with the people of Fiji how “powerful and ruthless” severe tropical cyclone Winston has really been with entire villages being flattened, schools destroyed and the death toll mounting.
The Fiji Times, the country’s oldest and most influential daily newspaper, has published for the second day running tributes to the courage of many Fijians in cyclone-stricken areas.
"It is difficult to shrug off the massive impact Winston has left in its wake, financially, physically and emotionally,” wrote editor-in-chief Fred Wesley. "As we start picking up the pieces, tales of heroism are slowly coming out as well. Such moments in time, for some unknown reason, bring out heroes.
"They are men and women who will shrug off any thoughts about their own safety to ensure their fellow human beings are safe."
Under the heading, "Danger lurks," Wesley wrote:
As damage assessment teams send in their reports from around the country, it is becoming increasingly clear that Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston was powerful and ruthless.
By yesterday, the national death toll in the wake of the Category 5 cyclone sat at 21. [PMW editor: Tonight this figure stood at 29.] Twelve of them died in the Western Division.
As state emergency teams head out to troubled spots around the country, there is hope that this is the final figure.
Early assessments, however, are not positive at all.
In many areas, entire villages have been affected by the powerful winds brought by Winston.
Homes were missing their roofs yesterday, some blown off their foundation and some torn to shreds by the angry winds.
The National Disaster Management Office has confirmed that 8438 evacuees are billeted in more than 50 evacuation centres in the four divisions.
As our report on Page 3 reveals, there are nine evacuation centres in the Eastern Division with 121 evacuees; 20 centres in the Central Division housing 1177 evacuees and 22 centres up North with 1260 occupants.
For the Western Division, there are a total of 5880 evacuees. As government officials headed for cyclone-stricken areas, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has urged them to respond promptly to the needs of those affected.
Director NDMO Akapusi Tuifagalele revealed that preliminary costs of damage to schools in the Western Division alone stands at $2.2million.
The true impact of Winston is slowly, but surely, coming to the fore.
It is difficult to shrug off the massive impact Winston has left in its wake, financially, physically and emotionally. As we start picking up the pieces, tales of heroism are slowly coming out as well. Such moments in time, for some unknown reason, bring out heroes.
They are men and women who will shrug off any thoughts about their own safety to ensure their fellow human beings are safe.
Many may never be known. And some such as Atunaisa Raralevu (No.3) made the ultimate sacrifice.
The 24-year-old farmer wasn't famous at all. He was loved by his family though.
At the height of Winston's fury, this young farmer tried to save 15 people trapped in a house.
He did what many probably wouldn't have done.
He had already carried a woman, her three children and another girl to the safest house in the village.
He will be remembered by those he touched that night. His reassurance and bravery in the face of overwhelming danger will mean a lot to those who survived.
This is just one of the many tales of courage that embraced the terrifying night when Winston wreaked havoc on Fiji.
Now more than ever, our country needs us to unite in our rehabilitation efforts.
We must ensure we remember Winston. This powerful system should serve as a constant reminder of the dangers that we live with.