JANUARY 15, 2013 | FIJI
Suva, FIJI—In mid-December 2012, a Category 4 tropical cyclone tore through Fiji and Samoa. Described as one of the most intense cyclones to hit Fiji in the last 70 years, Cyclone Evan caused wreckage that displaced thousands and damaged infrastructure. One commentator compared the damage in Samoa to that of the cataclysmic tsunami that struck in 2009.
Jehovah’s Witnesses report no fatalities or injuries among their members. However, the cyclone damaged many of the Witnesses’ homes. In Fiji, initial assessments indicated that over 80 homes of Witnesses were either damaged or destroyed. On the Samoan island of Upolu, 47 Witnesses were displaced by the storm.
Displaced victims in Samoa were temporarily sheltered in local houses of worship used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as in the homes of other Witness families. Further relief efforts in Samoa have been organized by the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia. As of December 18, food packages and hygienic supplies had been distributed to four local congregations and a translation office of Jehovah’s Witnesses was being utilized as a safe water source. A team of Witnesses also made efforts to repair damaged homes and disinfect and pressure wash homes inundated by water and mud. In Fiji, the immediate needs of the storm victims were cared for by disaster relief committees made up of Witness volunteers. Those same committees are now assessing the long-term needs of fellow Witnesses whose crops were damaged by the storm.
Tevita Sadole, a media spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Fiji, stated: “We have a lot of work to do in the aftermath of this disaster, but we are in good spirits. We look forward to helping our members and our neighbors in the days ahead.”
International: J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5000
Australia: Donald MacLean, tel. +61 2 9829 5600
Fiji: Tevita Sadole, tel. +679 330 4766