PHOTO ESSAY: From the Edge of Our Climate: The Aftermath of Cyclone Winston — Fiji
I find myself walking through familiar scenes, scenes of utter devastation, trees with no leaves, corrugated iron that once were people’s rooves twisted and folded around trees, scattered, wet clothes amongst the remnants of homes. These scenes are somewhat less sad when you are greeted with warm Fijian smiles and greetings, “Bula” they say welcomingly “thank you for visiting us”, amongst the background noise of hammering and the sounds of villages rebuilding.
On the 20 February 2016, Category 5 Cyclone Winston struck the islands of Fiji, it was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall, taking the lives of 44 people and destroying 55,000 homes and directly impacting 350,000 people, over a third of the population.
It has been nearly one year since Category 5 Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, with its record breaking intensity. People of the pacific are resilient to the extremes of tropical weather. However, elders from both of these countries recount how these recent cyclones were the most powerful they have experienced, from the roaring of the winds (up to 300km/h), to the devastation of whole villages, to the sheer terror as people fled their collapsing homes, running out to seek shelter and not being able to see more than a few metres in front of them.
As our climate changes, cyclones can become more intense as the oceans warm, as there is more energy that can be converted to wind speed. The damage caused by these extreme weather events are further exacerbated by the sea level rise on already vulnerable low lying villages through storm surges.
For more story-telling, Pacific Climate Warrior Fenton Lutunatabua’s BeyondTheNarrative by FL. collection of stories and his experience of being a child of Fiji is powerful reading and can be found here:
As part of the ongoing series, ‘From The Edge of Our Climate’, my slideshow for Walkley Storyology 2015 submission, which comprises images from Fiji, Tuvalu and the documentation of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu is here:
For more on the effects of rising sea levels in Fiji, my previous photo essay: