Tropical Cyclone Winston has been upgraded to a category five storm and has the potential to cause severe damage when it passes over Fiji today.

The cyclone has already hit islands in Fiji’s Lau group, bringing with it average winds of 220 kmh and gusts of 315 kmh.

Evacuation centres opened across Fiji yesterday. Fiji Red Cross has more than 300 volunteers on the ground, ready to support local communities. New Zealand Red Cross’ Auckland warehouse, stocked withrelief supplies, is also on standby and teams are ready to transport supplies and equipment if needed.

Stocks of non-food items are available in Suva, but not in the outer islands in the storm’s path.

Secretary General Tony Paine says New Zealand Red Cross is on alert and will continue monitoring the situation during the next twenty four hours.

“From what we’ve seen, Cyclone Winston is an incredibly powerful storm. Homes, infrastructure and food crops are likely to be affected, which could have a huge humanitarian impact in both the short and long term. We’re ready to help our neighbours in Fiji,” Mr Paine says.

New Zealand Red Cross works closely with its counterparts in the Pacific to help communities prepare for cyclones and build resilience year-round. This work includes building safe water storage systems for emergencies, training local first aid instructors and developing systems to help communities better understand weather warnings.The benefit of these warnings was highlighted during Cyclone Pam, which resulted in a death toll of 16 - low for a cyclone which brought destructive winds of up to 250km.

New Zealand Red Cross has also provided telecommunications training in 10 Pacific countries, ensuring vital communications can get through following a disaster.

How to help:  Kiwis can help efforts on the ground by donating to the Fiji appeal.

New Zealand Red Cross does not accept clothing, food or other goods, as they can clog up airports and ports and distract humanitarian workers from more important tasks. Cash is more easily collected, transferred, distributed and accounted for.

For more information or interviews, contact:

Alice Montague

New Zealand Red Cross General Manager Fundraising and Communications

Phone: +64 27 687 5683

Twitter: @avmontague


Hanna Butler

New Zealand Red Cross Communications Manager

Phone: +64 27 836 5529

Twitter: @hannarosebutler