Two deaths have been confirmed, according to the Fiji National Disaster Management Office. That number is expected to rise.
Typhoon Yasa, a Category 5 hurricane, caused landslides in Pua province on the northern island of Vanuatu on Thursday evening, causing torrential rains, widespread flooding and gusts of up to 285 kilometers per hour (177 miles per hour).
Fiji declared a state of natural disaster on Thursday, ordering the evacuation of its entire population of nearly 1 million, enforcing a night curfew order.
The alarm was often observed, and as a result, the initial impact of Hurricane Yasa was less than initially feared, albeit in more detail, humanitarian groups said.
“We are deeply concerned about the safety of the thousands of people affected by this monstrous storm,” said Fiji Red Cross Director-General Elizabeth Rogotunitov in a statement on Friday. “Early reports of volunteers in the province of Pua on the island of Vanuatu Lev reveal devastation.
Images shared on social media showed roads blocked by landslides, floodwaters and fallen trees. Fiji’s Road Authority says all roads in the main island district of Rakhine, with a population of about 30,000, have been flooded.
“Communities need immediate help” Save the Children Fiji CEO Shirana Ali told CNN. “Some families have reported losing everything.”
Ali said some families lost their food during the storm. “They have water and biscuits for breakfast,” he said. “Our main concern is to ensure that people, especially children, have access to proper food and clean water.”
Authorities are concerned about the heavy rains purchased by Hurricane Yasa, however the storm weakened in strength and is now Type 2 as it moves south across the island chain.
However, adverse weather conditions have hampered efforts to send aid teams, preventing waves of more than 3 meters (10 feet) from leaving Chua.
Strong hurricanes have been on the rise in the Pacific region in recent years, with Fiji Prime Minister Frank Pinemarama and environmental organizations mitigating climate change.
“This is not normal,” Pinemara tweeted Thursday. “It’s a climate emergency.”
Geneva Jeeva, secretary of the environmental NGO 350 in Fiji, said in a statement on Friday that Fijians were “really fighting for our survival.”
“Villages, houses and crops were destroyed very close to the Christmas season. Instead of celebrating, we are now focusing on rebuilding our lives,” he said. “That’s why I fight for climate justice.”