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    Tropical Cyclone Winston is strongest ever to hit Fiji

    February 23, 2016, 9:03:19 PM EST

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    Fiji took a direct hit by Tropical Cyclone Winston over the weekend, the strongest tropical cyclone to strike the island nation.

    Winston caused "enormous devastation," according to the Fijian Government.

    Winston remains the equivalent of an extremely dangerous Category 2 hurricane in the eastern Pacific or Atlantic basins.

    According to a blog by New Zealand MetService from Saturday afternoon, "Winston is now the strongest tropical cyclone and the first Category 5 [in the Southern Hemisphere] tropical cyclone on record to hit Fiji."

    The cyclone made landfall about 6:30 p.m. local time on Saturday near Nasau on Fiji's main island of Viti Levu.


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    Prior to striking Viti Levu, 1-minute maximum sustained winds of Winston were estimated by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center to be nearly 300 km/h (185 mph) as the cyclone passed by just south of Taveuni Island.

    As Winston continues to pull away from Fiji, conditions will improve and the nation can begin to clean up the destruction left by the dangerous tropical cyclone.

    Though scattered showers and thunderstorms will remain across the country through the beginning of the week, conditions will generally be favorable for recovery efforts.

    The New Zealand Herald reports that at least six people have died in Fiji, including one man who was killed after a home collapsed on him.

    Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reported that the town of Savusavu was "badly damaged" by Winston. Damage includes to yachts, electric poles and homes. A bus was washed inland.


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    Sustained winds, averaged over a period of 10 minutes, of 230 km/h (nearly 145 mph) were reported on Vanua Balavu island from the passage of Winston.

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    A countrywide curfew went into effect at 6 p.m. local time on Saturday, the Fijian government said. It also issued a 30-day State of Disaster for the country.

    The government opened more than 900 evacuation shelters in the country's Central and Northern divisions as part of its response.

    Authorities stated that all schools in the country will be closed for a week to give time for cleanup and recover from the cyclone, according the New Zealand Herald.


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    The Fiji Sun reported that flights have been cancelled in and out of the country. Impacts will continue to be felt over the next few days. Nadi International Airport had all flights cancelled and aircraft were taken to secure places.

    According to the Fijian Government, the Land Transport Authority requested that all public transportation stop operations at 5 p.m. local time on Saturday across the county's Central Division. The government also urged residents against any unnecessary travel throughout the country due to the impacts of the storm.

    Earlier this week, the cyclone caused severe damage to houses and crops in neighboring Tonga, with 70 to 80 percent of crops being destroyed in the northern islands, CARE Australia said.

    AccuWeather Senior Meteorologists Bob Smerbeck and Kristina Pydynowski along with staff writers Kevin Byrne and Mark Leberfinger contributed content to this article.

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