25 Feb 2016

Cyclone Winston: Where is the help?

7:30 am on 25 February 2016

Five days after Cyclone Winston tore though the islands of western Fiji, there are no signs of substantial aid getting through to those who need it.

Inmates clear a large fallen tree in Rakiraki

Inmates clear a large fallen tree in Rakiraki Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The clean up is well underway in Rakiraki, with prison inmates helping to clear debris and cut a large fallen tree into moveable pieces.

Town council chief executive Rakesh Chandra said there is so much destruction and there is a lot to do.

"Currently my market is completely demolished, I don't have any market structure. All my other properties and structures of the town council are damaged, completely," he said.

Rakiraki council chief executive Rakesh Chandra

Rakiraki council chief executive Rakesh Chandra Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Mr Chandra has not yet been told what the plans were for helping displaced people in and around Rakiraki.

"I think they have some plans already set up - we have not been told yet. From Rakiraki we cannot do much about that.

"All we can do is provide evacuation centres, all our evacuation centres are open and pretty jammed-up. We're looking at around close to 5000 to 6000 people in evacuation centres," he said.

Inside an evacuation centre in Rakiraki

Inside an evacuation centre in Rakiraki Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

One of the evacuation centres in Rakiraki was an old school that did not escape being damaged by the fierce storm.

The people who came here have nothing - they have lost their homes.

The little food there is appears to be very basic, the ceiling is leaking, and the floor is wet.

But it was still better than what survivors left behind.

Yogeshni Lata hand-washes her family's clothes while she can

Yogeshni Lata hand-washes her family's clothes while she can Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Yogeshni Lata, 42, took the chance to hand-wash some clothes while water was still running from the taps.

She was at the evacuation centre with her three children and husband, after their house was washed away.

She did not know what help would come.

"I have no idea about it right now, no idea about it.

"We're looking for some assistance to come from somewhere, so hopefully by this week or something like that," she said.

In Rakiraki the cyclone flipped a van and slammed it into the ground

In Rakiraki the cyclone flipped a van and slammed it into the ground Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The small outer villages were suffering some of the most conditions, where homes were flattened.

There was little shelter and people were going hungry.

Usaia Rawaidranu, the chief of four Fijian villages hit by the hurricane

Usaia Rawaidranu, the chief of four Fijian villages hit by the hurricane Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Usaia Rawaidranu, the chief of four shredded villages, came to tell disaster management officials how bad things were.

"You know, we need the food, we need some tarpaulins to make shelter, because plenty of my population now they can't sleep.

"I've got only six houses in my village, my population is 544, we all fit in those six houses."

He was not waiting on the government, and has ordered rebuilding in his villages to start immediately.

"I hope that the government will listen - it may be tomorrow, or next month or whatever. So I talked to my people, don't wait for the government, we do our own.

"If the government comes, well it's okay. If not, we do our own," he said.

At the Lovu squatter settlement near Lautoka, where residents told RNZ earlier this week they were struggling to find food and water after their homes were blown apart and washed away, things had not improved much.

Last night, Elizabeth Moore said while someone had been to ask questions, there had been no actual help, no tarpaulins given out.

"Not that I know of, it's just that hopefully pretty soon they will come around and distribute the tarpaulins and clothing and stuff."

She said people around her had been left on their own.