Hawaii students worry about relatives affected by huge Fiji cyclone

Hawaii students worry about relatives affected by huge Fiji cyclone

LAIE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - About 40 students at Brigham Young University-Hawaii's Laie campus are from Fiji, and on Saturday night they nervously monitored social media as Tropical Cyclone Winston slammed the islands.

On Monday, Peter Rakuita had still not heard from his siblings in the western and northern parts of Fiji.

"I tried contacting them via Facebook. Tried calling them. I haven't heard anything from them," he said.

Ase Ramasima's mother got out before the storm slammed her coastal town.

"Luckily for her she left the morning the storm hit," Ramasima said. "She knows that the rest of the village had to move to the village meeting hall. Floodwaters kept rising."

Packing 184-mph winds, Winston is the most powerful cyclone to hit the Southern Hemisphere. As of Monday, the death toll from Winston stood at 28. Meanwhile, thousands of people remain in shelters and the damage is reportedly extensive.

"We've had Cyclone Tina, Cyclone Gavin, but this one is said to be the strongest of them all," Rakuita said.

A Shriners Hospital in Honolulu medical team weathered the storm, and is safe.

"The infrastructure is down, but for most of these simple, hardy people it's just the way it's going to be for the week," pediatric orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Pellett said, via phone.

"When the power comes back up they'll turn the lights on again."

Thankfully, BYUH freshman Jim Tupua heard from his sister Sunday.

"She said there's a lot of fallen trees, power lines. It's still not safe to go out because of those power lines," he said.

About 10 FIjian students at BYUH are still waiting for word from loved ones.

"They're all anxious waiting. We're hoping something happens within the next 24 hours." Ramasima said.

"I hope and pray that they are well -- alive and safe. I'm worried and sad at the same time," Rakuita said.

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