Member injured, church buildings damaged
An Adventist Church member was seriously injured while running for cover as Cyclone Winston tore through Fiji on the weekend.
Fiji Mission general secretary Pastor Joseph Talemaitoga said the middle-aged man, from the island of Qamea, was hit by flying iron roofing while trying to seek cover after the house he was sheltering in collapsed.
Pastor Talemaitoga said his injuries were “very serious” and he required stitches. The man was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Suva, where he is recovering.
The death toll from the cyclone, believed to be one of the strongest tropical cyclones to ever hit the southern hemisphere, has risen to at least 17, officials say.
Pastor Talemaitoga said the information he was getting from pastors is that the damage to churches and school buildings is “pretty bad”, with a number of buildings completely destroyed. He said Fiji’s second biggest island, Vanua Levu, suffered the worst damage. An Adventist college, three primary schools and a number of churches are on the island but there is no information yet on how badly they have been impacted.
Despite the devastation, Pastor Talemaitoga said the people are “still smiling”. “They are bearing up, life has to go on,” he said.
A number of church members are helping out with the clean-up effort. “It’s a great feeling to know that church members are ready and willing to take time off work and volunteering, men and women, to come and do whatever needs to be done,” he said. “We are grateful to everyone from across the South Pacific region for their prayers and support.”
The governments of Australia and New Zealand are both preparing emergency assistance via military aircraft and non-government organisations, including the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), are also on hand. “ADRA has prepositioned supplies in Fiji including 1000 water containers, soap, water purification tablets, first aid kits, and other hygiene and sanitation items,” according to a statement from ADRA Australia.