Article by PADI Regional Manager for Australia, Ian Cumming.
On February 20th this year Tropical Cyclone Winston hit Fiji with a ferocity unmatched in the Pacific Region in living memory. Winds of over 300kmh tore through the islands between 10am and 1pm leaving a trail of destruction never before witnessed on this friendly neighbour of Australia’s and one of Australians favourite tourism destinations. The timing of the cyclone was the only positive as the daylight gave locals the ability to orientate themselves and helped them cope with what was happening. The fear and terror that the howling winds created would be the hallmark of this cyclone and survivors tell of flying debris, collapsing walls of their homes and how they survived such a bruising encounter.
From 10am February 20th getting in contact with friends and family in Fiji was near impossible, most, if not all communication lines were destroyed and needed to be repaired. Contact and reassurance was made that friends and family were ok or otherwise was up to 5 days later for the remote areas, an agonising time for those who would normally be in touch on a daily basis.
The clean-up, delivery of vital supplies, re-establishment of communication and the rebuild soon began and still continues as you read this in May 2016.
One of the immediate after cyclone effects is the tough decision dive operators in Australia need to make – do we go ahead with our dive travel and is the reef and resort OK? As we divers know, reefs can sustain serious damage during storms and depending on where the storm hit depends on where the damage lies. Fortunately for Fiji many of the stunning and fish filled reefs of Fiji sustained minimal damage, others in the remote areas where the cyclone was it strongest did suffer however they will recover in time.
The Fijian smile, the sincere warmth and infectious laughter of the people of Fiji has not diminished one little bit, their hospitality and welcoming ‘Bula’ is here everywhere. If you are thinking of coming back for more diving, do so, if you have never been to Fiji then now is the time. There is diving here for all types and experiences so do yourself a favour and come on over, make no mistake, Fiji is open for business and the diving is fantastic.