Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has issued a strong warning to all Fijians, urging everyone to prepare for the worst and “lend help to a neighbour” as Cyclone Yasa approaches.
“If you have not done so already, secure your homes, board up the windows, ensure you have emergency kits ready, as well as enough food and water stocked to last several days”, he said.
Fiji has ordered a nationwide curfew, including a public transport ban, with a potentially devastating cyclone expected to unleash powerful winds and flooding on the island nation within a day.
According to the Fiji Times, National Disaster Management Office director Vasiti Soko confirmed on Thursday that Fiji has been declared a state of natural disaster.
“The declaration of Tropical Cyclone Yasa as a natural disaster under the Natural Disaster Management Act 1998 is now in force and is effective from 16 December 2020, for a period of 30 days,” Ms Soko said.
Ms Soko said the state of disaster would put government assets on standby, allowing Fiji Police Force to assist with potential evacuations.
Category five Cyclone Yasa is forecast to deliver winds up to 250 km/h and torrential rain across the South Pacific archipelago nation when it makes landfall early on Friday (Fiji time).
The country ordered a 14-hour nationwide curfew from 4pm on Thursday with people living in low-lying areas urged to move to higher ground before nightfall, Commodore Bainimarama said.
“The impact for this super storm is more or less the entire country,” he said via Facebook video.
Yasa would “easily surpass” the strength of 2016’s Cyclone Winston, he added, referring to the southern hemisphere’s most intense tropical storm on record, which killed more than 40 Fijians and left tens of thousands of people homeless.
Commodore Bainimarama also reassured residents that evacuation centres would follow COVID-19 safety measures.
More than 850,000 Fijians, or 95 per cent of the population, live in the direct path of Yasa, said Commodore Bainimarama, adding forecasts anticipated flash flooding and “severe coastal inundation” including waves up to 10 metres.
The National Disaster Management Office said the public transport ban will be enforced by police during the curfew, with restrictions to be reviewed early on Friday.
By 8pm on Thursday, the centre of Yasa was forecast to be 100 kilometres east of the village of Yasawa-i-Rara and potentially over Fiji’s fifth-most populous province of Bua, home to 15,000 people, the office said.