This handout photo shows flooding in Lamen Bay after Cyclone Harold swept through the northern islands. IFRC/AFP
A powerful tropical cyclone battered the South Pacific island nation of Fiji on Wednesday, witnesses said, destroying buildings and causing injuries in Suva, the capital, pressuring a population already bracing for the coronavirus outbreak.
Cyclone Harold, its strength ranked in the highest category of five, passed over Fiji's south at about midday, levelling homes and snapping communications links in the archipelago, which has adopted curbs on movement to rein in the virus.
This handout photo shows a resident looking out from a damaged houses in Vanuatu. IFRC/AFP
"We've seen reports of injuries," Vasiti Soko, the director of the National Disaster Management Office, said by telephone.
"As to the number, as well as the intensity, of the injuries, that's yet to be ascertained."
There were no immediate reports of deaths, but about 10 houses in Suva were reported destroyed, Soko added.
Flooded streets, wild winds and ruined buildings on the country's main island home to Suva featured in unverified video images and photographs circulated on social media.
This handout photo shows residents evacuating as Cyclone Harold hit on the northern islands of Vanuatu. IFRC/AFP
Emergency officials were scrambling to establish contact with the southern island of Kapavu, after the storm severed communications with it, Soko added.
The ferocious storm has cut a path through the Pacific, which is already on high alert for an outbreak of the flu-like virus that has infected 1.4 million people globally and killed 82,000.
Although Fiji has just 15 infections and no deaths, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has banned unnecessary gatherings of more than 20 people, among other curbs.
Aerial assessment showed that Bua province on the northern island of Vanua Levu suffered 70% damage and destruction, while the small island of Kia was completely destroyed, Fiji Red Cross Director General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau said.
The Meteorological Department has asked local authorities and two ports to raise their highest alert, as the cyclone is expected to unleash a storm surge as high as seven feet (two metres) in coastal districts.
In coastal Khulna, the worst-hit district in Bangladesh, trees swayed violently and were ripped from the ground in the fierce storm, blocking roads and hampering access to the area.
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