After a Category 5 cyclone struck Fiji on 20 February 2016, the Sathya Sai International Organisation of Zone 3 – Australia and Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand, sprang into action immediately. Sathya Sai volunteers started offering hot meals, food packets, drinking water, clothes and medical care to the victims of the natural disaster.
Tropical cyclone Winston, reported to be one of the strongest storms to make landfall since modern records began in the 1970s, ravaged through most of the country, damaging homes, infrastructure, farms and disrupting people’s livelihoods. To witness and describe the sheer scale of destruction is difficult enough, but what the affected people endure on the aftermath of such destruction is even harder to comprehend.
The cyclone made landfall near Rakiraki, population 30,000, at 5 PM on 20th February. So far, 43 people have lost their lives. Remote communities in the townships of Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki (on the North West of the main island – Viti Levu) along with about 100 smaller outlying islands such as Koro were the worst affected areas. A National state of emergency was declared in the country. By the grace of Bhagawan, there was comparably minor damage to the Sathya Sai School in Lautoka.
In the West, 4,864 houses were destroyed and 6,574 partially damaged. In the North, 792 houses were destroyed and 2,617 partially damaged, and in the Central Division, 568 were destroyed and 1,667 partially damaged. In the East, 819 houses were destroyed and 253 partially damaged.
Approximately 30 Sathya Sai volunteers with the help of local NGO’s and religious groups are serving over 500 victims in remote locations daily, with food rations and clean drinking water. Volunteers from both SSIO Australia and New Zealand are also contributing in the relief efforts. They delivered over 6 tonnes of food and 1,500 litres of clean drinking water, in many cases by foot and even on horseback. A team of volunteers from New Zealand were scheduled to travel to Fiji in April for holding Medical Camps, however, the scale of destruction moved some of them to arrive much earlier to participate in humanitarian relief work immediately.
The SSIO volunteers have been working almost around the clock since the cyclone hit, to provide relief supplies to affected families. Sathya Sai Youth are leading components of the relief efforts. SSIO of Fiji expects the initial phase (providing food packs and clean drinking water) to continue.
Clothing and basic essentials are being packed in major cities of Australia and shipped to Fiji. Some collection of clothes being boxed at Sathya Sai Centre of Blacktown, under the auspices of the SSIO – Australia.
A nationwide prayer appeal has been organized in Australia. Prayers and devotional singing to help disaster victims and provide energy to the hardworking volunteers are being conducted daily at Sathya Sai Centres across Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.