WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A cyclone caused flooding as it crossed Fiji, requiring rescues of residents and sending thousands of people into shelters in the Pacific archipelago. At least one person died and five others are missing.
Authorities said Monday that more than 10,000 people were sheltering at 300 evacuation centers after Cyclone Ana made landfall Sunday on the main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The cyclone created flooding across parts of both islands, including in the capital, Suva.
The National Disaster Management Office reported that a 49-year-old man had drowned, while four fishermen and a toddler were missing.
Office Director Vasiti Soko said a river near Suva unexpectedly burst it banks and crews needed to rescue villagers from their homes. She said there was severe flooding on the other main island of Vanua Levu and it was getting more rain as another storm passed through.
“But in Suva, the sun is out again, the water is going down and the evacuees are returning,” she said.
Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama pointed to climate change as a cause of recent deadly storms.
“Today, my priority is on Fijians’ safety — but the rest of the world needs to wake up and reckon with why this is happening,” Bainimarama wrote on Twitter.
Fiji was still recovering from an even more powerful cyclone that hit in December. That storm, Cyclone Yasa, killed four people, with a fifth person listed as missing.
But while people remained displaced Monday, the country was also trying to quickly get back to normal. Schools remained closed but other civil servants were told they should report back for work unless they’d been directly affected by the cyclone. That move angered some people
Soon after Cyclone Ana made landfall, wind gusts were hitting 140 kilometers per hour (87 miles per hour), according to the Fiji Meteorological Service. During Cyclone Yasa, which destroyed dozens of homes, winds topped 200 mph.
Located about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii, Fiji has a population of about 930,000.