Fiji has been hit by the fastest ever storm on Saturday night. The island nation was shaken as tropical Cyclone Winston raked havoc across the country . Seventeen people died during the storm.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray Mccully said, “The death toll from Cyclone Winston continues to rise and reports of widespread damage are coming in from across Fiji.”

According to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), Winston hit Viti Levu, which is Fiji’s largest and most populous island, on Saturday evening. Winston was not only the record breaking category 5 tropical cyclone that hit Fiji but was also the strongest tropical cyclone, which hit the Southern Hemisphere. Winds reached 184 mph (296kph).

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama commented, “Many people have been left stunned and confused about what to do. The damage has been widespread, homes have been destroyed, many low lying areas have been flooded.”

He added, “There is a great deal of debris on our roads, power lines have gone down, and iron, glass and other hazardous materials pose serious threats to our community.”

He further stated that clearing the roads would take time.

According to CNN, many people have left their home to seek shelters. Reportedly there are widespread power outages.  Emergency crews, in the meanwhile, are working on clearing the roads which are blocked with downed trees and debris. At the same time nationwide curfew remains. The Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management informed that schools in Fiji will be closed for one week.

Aid agencies have warned the country of widespread health crisis, mostly in low lined areas. Around 900,000 people are living in tin shacks, after water supply had been blocked and crops were wiped out, reported   Around 8,000 people left their home before the storm hit to take refuge in evacuation centres around Fiji.

Fiji is an archipelago situated in the South Pacific Ocean and is 1800 miles from Australia’s east coast.

Melbourne witnessed storm and flash flood last month. However, this Fiji storm is far more intense and devastating.