On the night of 17 December 2020 Tropical Cyclone Yasa stormed across Fiji. This category 5 cyclone brought devastating winds, with gusts reaching up to 350km/h and waves surging up to 12m. The Government of Fiji has declared a state of emergency, while 23,000 Fijians remain in evacuation centres. So far four casualties have been reported; a great tragedy for their families. It is a tribute to the islands’ preparedness that there were not more losses. The storm is reported to have destroyed houses, schools and other buildings, as well as crops, and has led to flooding and landslides, with roads blocked and many communities without power.
The damage is still being assessed, but the cyclone is considered one of the strongest ever to hit the Pacific. Local Fijians have described the cyclone as “the most terrifying experience of their lives”.
Writing to the Anglican Alliance, the Registrar of the Diocese of Polynesia, Sepiuta C.N.B. Hala’api’api, said: “I write on behalf of Archbishop Cama and the diocese thanking you all for your concern, your thoughts and prayers at this time. We are grateful to God that we have been better prepared this time round for this category 5 Cyclone Yasa. While all of the country was affected with heavy rain, strong winds and flooding, the worst affected was our Episcopal Unit of Vanua Levu and Taveuni where we have 5 churches, 6 worship centres, 2 primary schools and one high school.”
Anglican Missions reports that “Cyclone Yasa is a double disaster for Fiji which is still recovering from the devastating impact of COVID-19 which has had such a significant impact on the economy and people’s livelihoods.”
The Diocese of Polynesia reported that some of the vicarages and halls in Vanua Levu and Taveuni had been used as evacuation centres. Over recent years the Diocese has been focusing on developing disaster resilience and preparedness in its communities. The Diocese is also recognised as a skilled responder to disasters. It is currently assessing the level of damage from the cyclone. The Diocese is planning a relief and recovery program, along with Anglican Missions (Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia).
Anglican Missions reports: “The response and recovery plan will build on the existing post-Covid project which includes the distribution of immediate supplies and longer-term recovery in the form of communal gardens on church properties. It will also likely include a psychosocial support element.”
“All parishes in Fiji have been sent damage and needs assessment templates. Each church will identify levels of damage and include community needs. These will be collated and entered into the existing GIS database that has been developed for the Covid response. This information will be shared with the official Fijian Government response and also help inform the NZ response.”
Other Anglican agencies in the region are working in close collaboration, channelling their support for the Diocese of Polynesia’s response through Anglican Missions NZ. These include Anglican Board of Mission (Australia), Anglican Overseas Aid (Australia). The support may also extend to Tonga, depending on the levels of damage there. From the USA, Episcopal Relief & Development is also sending support through Anglican Missions. This is a great example of agencies and churches in the Anglican Alliance working together in partnership. Tearfund New Zealand is also supporting the Diocese of Polynesia in collaboration with Anglican Missions. Please see below for the links to make donations.
Anglican Missions writes: “Christmas is all about giving, and our brothers and sisters in Fiji need our help urgently. Please pray for Fiji and for everyone affected. Your generosity will help us reach as many affected people as possible.”
To make a donation:
Anglican Missions, Aotearoa, New Zealand, Polynesia: appeal page here.
Anglican Board of Mission, Australia: appeal page here.
Anglican Overseas Aid, Australia: appeals page here.
Episcopal Relief & Development: donate to International Disaster Response here.
Tearfund New Zealand, working with the Diocese of Polynesia in partnership with Anglican Missions – appeal page here.
Please pray for Fiji and the victims of Cyclone Yasa:
Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the one who calms the storm and brings hope to frightened people.
Hear us as we pray for the people of Fiji
as they deal with the aftermath of Cyclone Yasa.
Bless those who mourn the death of loved ones,
that they may be comforted.
Bless those who have lost their homes or businesses,
that they may find shelter and sustenance.
Bless those who are already economically vulnerable because of Covid-19
that they may find paid employment.
Move us to help in whatever way we can,
so that the people of Fiji may know your love
through the hearts of their sisters and brothers in Christ.
Prayer from Anglican Board of Mission