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All visitors are safe in Fiji, says Fiji's Tourism Minister

Fiji's Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Faiyaz Siddiq Koya has assured all friends and families of guests currently visiting Fiji that all visitors are safe and comfortable.

Minister Koya stated that all properties have taken all necessary precautions and actions to ensure that their guests are safe and are taken good care of.

“Furthermore, there are no reports of any significant structural damage to the majority of hotels in Viti Levu, except for some properties in the Rakiraki area,” said the Minister.

“We understand that friends and families are very concerned, however, we request everyone to remain calm. Cyclone Winston has caused extensive damage to the communications infrastructure, hence, mobile and Internet communications in some parts of Fiji maybe affected. However, communication is active in Suva, Nadi, Denarau and along the Coral Coast,” added Minister Koya.

Furthermore, the Minister stated that as soon as flights resume, Fiji Airways will prioritise guests who want to go back home and flights are expected to be normalized by Monday, 22 February 2016.

Minister stated that tourism remains a key and important industry for Fiji and this setback will not curb the enthusiasm and the warm hospitality Fiji is renowned for.

Meanwhile, International tourists began fleeing cyclone-devastated Fiji on Monday  amid fears the death toll from the most powerful storm to ever hit the Pacific island nation is set to rise steeply.

The official body count from severe tropical cyclone Winston stands at 10 and might increase.

The super-storm lashed the popular tourist destination overnight on Saturday, packing gusts of 325 kilometres per hour. It was the first maximum category five cyclone to hit Fiji and left a trail of destruction, flattening scores of homes and crippling infrastructure.

Oxfam's Pacific regional director Raijeli Nicole said some of the remote communities that bore the brunt of the storm had still not been heard from and officials feared the worst.

“The Fijians are desperately trying to repair severed lines of communication, but they hold grave fears that the news waiting for them will be dire," she said.

“Given the intensity of the storm and the images we have seen so far, there are strong concerns that the death toll won't stop climbing today and that hundreds of people will have seen their homes and livelihoods completely destroyed.”

International tourists caught up in the disaster began to leave as flights resumed at Nadi airport after a two-day suspension.

Air New Zealand confirmed one of its aircraft departed at 9.30am and other carriers including Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Fiji Airways were also expected to begin operations again.

Fiji's economy relies on tourism and the island chain is a major destination for Australians and New Zealanders.

The acting head of the Red Cross's Pacific office Ahmad Sami said an accurate assessment of the storm's impact would take time. "We anticipate that humanitarian needs will be very high,” he told AFP.

“This is the first time that Fiji has experienced a cyclone of this magnitude in their history, a category five, so we're still trying to find out the figures.”

He said priorities were restoring power and repairing damaged homes, as well as maintaining drinking water supplies in more than 700 evacuation centres.

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