A Scare Tale Of Category 5 Cyclone For Fijians

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The category 5 cyclone known for its extremely dangerous and widespread destruction has left the people of the small island nation of Fiji with nightmares.

While category 5 cyclones are known to be rare and does not appear unless its several years apart. Fiji has experienced two within four years, Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston and Tropical Cyclone (TC) Yasa in December,2020.

In 2019, a study conducted on Tropical Cyclone Projections: Changing Climate threats for Pacific Island Defense by American Meteorological Society, showed that a total of 60 percent of global tropical cyclones are formed in the Pacific Ocean. This is also where some of the strongest and largest storms on the planet occur.

In the South Pacific two of the largest category five cyclones, TC Winston and TC Yasa, caused rampage, the worst hit was Fiji.

TC Yasa made landfall on the 17th December,2020, with wind speed of 250km/h (155mph) and recent reports shows the extent of the damages in Vanua Levu according to an initial damage assessment by the Northern Commissioner.

Commissioner Northern, Uraia Rainima, said, “TC Yasa destroyed 1,500 homes in the North and leaving 6,000 partially damaged”.

Tropical Cyclone

As Fiji is experiencing cyclone season, with a category five cyclone Yasa, category two TC Ana and two others already forming, it’s important to know how cyclone come about.

In 2019, NASA Science report states that cyclones are formed from warm, moist air from the ocean that rises upwards from near the oceans.

“Tropical cyclones are like giant engines that use warm ocean waters near the equator, another way to say it is that warm air rises, causing an area of lower air pressure below. Once the warm air cools off, the water in the air forms clouds, the wind spins and grows, as it rotates faster to 39 mph the eye forms and is called tropical cyclone”, NASA science.

Storms that are formed from the north side of the equator are known to spins counterclockwise, while storm from the south spin clockwise, NASA explains this is due to the Earths rotational axis.

In 2018, a scoping study on Chemicals releases associated with cyclones, by World Health Organization hurricanes have various categories, using the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, which runs from one to five. Category One being an average wind speed of 119-153km/h and category five wind speed can range from 252 km/h or higher.

Tropical Cyclone YASA experience

In a tale of absolute horror, 60-year-old Nakalou man, Oliva Damanu, shares his experience when TC Yasa made landfall in Nakalou village, Vanua Levu.

“When TC Yasa came we were in the middle of a wedding that was held in the village; we ran to our houses and some to an evacuation house within the village,” he said

“When it started we can hear the sound of the wind howling, then we can feel the house completely vibrating from the roof right down to the floor, as we watch on terrified, we saw our neighbors roof flew up into mid-air and thrown over our house,” Damanu said

“It is as if somebody tear the roof off, scrunch it and threw it over our house; the sight of it both terrified and made me pray for the safety everyone”.

37-year-old Sekove Narova, who ran to their evacuation center in Nakalou, was left with no choice but to tear the floor open so everyone can escape from the devastating effects of TC Yasa, as it rips the roof off.

“It was the scariest experience I had ever encountered, I was so worried especially for the women and children who were there, when we ripped the floor out, we saw the horror of items flying around and tin roofing materials from the houses being wrapped around the coconut trees”, Narova said.

A mother of 5, Losana Lakonakoro was left with her children, in what she described to be the most terrifying experience of her life.

“Our house is not that strong, when the cyclone hit us, the children and I hurdled in the living room, the wind was so strong, we can feel our whole house shaking, the children were crying and the rain was pouring in, all I was doing was praying that the Lord will protect us and that no one gets hurt”, she said

“This is the first time a cyclone this strong has ever hit our village, and we are still in shock at the devastation that it has left us”.

Challenges and way forward

There are different challenges faced by those affected by TC Yasa.

Damanu, whose lived in Nakalou all his life, says this is the first time a cyclone of this magnitude hit his village and the damage sustained is extensive as they struggle to survive daily.

“The villagers are affected in so many ways, if their houses are not damaged, the root crops have”, Damanu said

“Even though we appreciate the aid coming from the government and overseas, it simply isn’t enough because it has to be shared to everyone in the village, so far we have had only two rations, from them and it includes 2kg rice, 1 kg, sugar, 2 kg flour”, he said

“We have to ask for help from our relatives who have been generous”.

The experience has been an ‘eye opener’ for the villagers, they have chosen not to wait for government aid and started rebuilding their houses from materials they can acquire and have used the ocean as their main source of food. The village young men gather root crops and go out fishing to share in the village.

“Even though the experience was frightening, we are thankful to GOD for keeping us safe and we are resilient, so we will move forward with whatever we can find and help each other to rebuild our village to former glory, or even better than before”, Narova said.

Tropical Cyclone has become a common occurrence in the South Pacific, Fiji has been hit twice by a category five cyclone. Despite the challenges and the destruction it has caused, Fijians remain resilient in this trouble times, unwavering and steadfast in their belief; that one day big developing countries would take responsibility and open their eyes to see the effects of what climate change is doing to their beautiful island homes and its people.