February 22, 2016

ADRA Distributes Aid After Record Storm Batters Fiji

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) scrambled to distribute emergency aid after the most powerful storm in Fiji’s history tore through the South Pacific nation, killing at least five people and causing widespread damage, including to staff housing at a Seventh-day Adventist college.

Authorities were assessing the damage Sunday after Cyclone Winston slammed into Fiji overnight with heavy rainfall and winds of more than 200 miles an hour (320 kilometers an hour).

“It was a big one. It was a frightening night,” said Iliapi Tuai, ADRA’s country director for Fiji.

“There is still no power or water here in Suva, and we’re not expecting it back until Tuesday,” he said in a statement, referring to Fiji’s capital. “Without power, we cannot pump water. Without power, there is no communication to the remote areas and outlying islands. This is the big issue right now.”

About 80 percent of the country’s population of 900,000 has been left without regular electricity supplies, authorities said. Thousands of people have sought shelter in 750 government-approved evacuation centers, including in Adventist schools and churches.

Before the storm made landfall, ADRA prepositioned emergency supplies, including 1,000 water containers, soap, water purification tablets, first aid kits, and other hygiene and sanitation items.

“We are working closely with the government to ensure help is given where it is need most as quickly as possible,” Tuwai said.

A toppled tree blocking the road to Fulton. No college buildings were damaged. (David Dakuitoga / Facebook)

Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, urged church members to assist Fiji in whatever way possible.

“May the Seventh-day Adventist Church through member and ADRA activities provide a public demonstration of our Christ-like assistance to those in need as we demonstrate Total Member Involvement to those in great need,” he said on his Facebook page. “I appeal to all to assist and pray for Fiji and its current recovery from the cyclone.”

Total Member Involvement is an Adventist Church initiative aimed at encouraging each of the denomination’s nearly 19 million members worldwide to find ways to share Jesus through everyday activities.

The Adventist Church has about 25,000 members worshiping in 260 congregations in Fiji, according to the latest statistics from the Adventist world church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. Fiji’s president, who was elected to the largely ceremonial post late last year, is a Seventh-day Adventist.

Read: Fiji’s First Adventist President Vows to Keep God First

As the storm approached, Adventist churches around the country canceled their Sabbath services and urged members to head safety instructions from the authorities.

“We are requesting all church members to suspend travel, store sufficient drinking water, prepare for imminent power shutdowns, and stay indoors,” the church’s Fiji Mission said in a statement. “If your house is insecure … please move to an evacuation center now!”

Details about how Adventist-owned buildings fared in the storm began to emerge Sunday. Staff houses at Vatuvonu Adventist College on Fiji's second-largest island, Vanua Levu, were damaged, with teachers taking shelter in classrooms, church leaders said. The road to Fulton University College, located on the outskirts of Nadi on Fiji’s main island, was blocked by toppled trees and floodwaters. But buildings at the recently constructed campus escaped undamaged.

ADRA cautioned that the destructive winds and widespread flooding might lead to food shortages in the coming months.

“Food is going to be a major and urgent need as flights are canceled and shops [are] flattened,” it said.

To donate to Fiji relief efforts, visit the website of ADRA International, ADRA Australia, ADRA New Zealand, or ADRA Canada.

South Pacific Adventist Record contributed to this report.