Melanie Ogle, a New Zealander with Red Cross in Suva says Fiji Red Cross is a strong organisation and is already responding to the damage caused by Cyclone Winston.

“Over 300 Fiji Red Cross staff and volunteers of have so far been mobilised to support at-risk communities and people in evacuation centres. Volunteers are trained in emergency response and propositioned relief aid was on hand.”

Red Cross has enough emergency relief stock prepositioned across Fiji to support 12,500 people.

Ms Ogle, a disaster management specialist, says Fiji Red Cross teams are now undertaking initial assessments to get a clearer picture of the damage.

Based on the Red Cross’ experience of responding to cyclones in the Pacific, the priority humanitarian needs are likely to be emergency shelter, access to clean water and family kits including hygiene items.

The main challenge for Red Cross will be reaching affected communities due to the anticipated flash flooding, damage to infrastructure and communications and the remoteness of some island communities.

“We've been monitoring tropical cyclone for days and updating Pacific Red Cross’ on its trajectory and advising preparedness. The warmer El Nino waters have made Cyclone Winston highly unpredictable and Red Cross has been on high alert,” Ms Ogle says.

How to help

Kiwis can help efforts on the ground by donating to Red Cross’ Pacific Disaster Fund, which ensures New Zealand Red Cross can respond quickly when a cyclone hits.

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. Often the cost of transporting goods is more than the value of goods themselves.

We also work to ensure people receive goods that are equitable, quality and appropriate, and when we can we buy from local supplies which helps the local economy after a disaster.

Cash moves fast, is more easily collected, transferred, distributed and accounted for.

Restoring family links service

If you have not yet been able to re-establish contact with a family member, and you are in New Zealand, you can contact our Restoring Family Links service on familylinks@redcross.org.nz or 04 494 1312.

Alternatively, if you are in Fiji, you can contact the Fiji Red Cross on +679 3314 133 ext. 112, or +679 873 8803.