Fiji extends state of disaster after super Cyclone Winston

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Fiji’s government said on Monday it would extend for another month a state of natural disaster in areas of the country still reeling from the impact of a super cyclone, which hit the country last month.

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Cyclone Winston, which was the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, hit the South Pacific archipelago particularly hard, killing 43 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

More than 25,000 Fijians remained in evacuation centers, according to the latest report from Fiji’s National Emergency Operation Centre.

The extension of the state of emergency will allow greater access to affected areas, Fiji’s National Disaster Controller said in a statement.

“The extension period will also allow health authorities to make provisions against any possible disease outbreak especially in severely affected areas,” it said.

“It will also allow disaster officials to fully utilize available foreign services and expertise in relief and recovery support.”

Australia has donated A$15 million in aid to Fiji to provide food, clean water and shelter, as well as teams of emergency aid workers.

Sune Gudnitz, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, appealed for patience in dealing with the disaster in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s Pacific Beat.

“Some of the communities are severely destroyed or affected. The houses are gone and they need to be rebuilt. In some areas they’re talking about relocating villages to safer spots away from the shoreline,” he said.

“This is a disaster of such a magnitude that it would be a while before everything is back to normal - if ever.”

Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Robert Birsel