The South Pacific Council of Trade Unions (SPOCTU) expresses solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Fiji who are suffering because of the unprecedentedly severe tropical cyclone Winston.

This is the worst storm in the history of Fiji and in the Pacific region, with wind speeds up to 325 kph.

With the death toll now at 44 and thousands in evacuation centres, unions from across the region are looking to how we can assist.

Poor areas across the country are experiencing damage to homes and sustained flooding, with serious interruption to food, water and electricity supplies. But the situation in villages in the northern and western coastal areas of Viti Levu is tragic.

In the town of Rakiraki, 95% of houses have been completely destroyed and hundreds of people are sheltering in the church, waiting for assistance by air or boat since roads are cut while food stores and in-ground crops are rotting.

The situation of smaller islands in the path of the cyclone, such as Koro, is even more desperate.

Pacific nations and communities are aware that catastrophic weather events are worsening because of climate change, and inaction by high-income country governments like Australia on greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbates the problem.

The catastrophic effects of extreme weather events are felt hardest by the poor.

The destruction of food crops and housing, and the loss of jobs across the country will continue to be felt long after the cyclone has passed.

Disasters of this nature require immediate relief responses, but also require longer terms reconstruction efforts, rebuilding homes and infrastructure, and replanting crops.

It will take considerable time and cost for people to be able to get back to work, with schools, factories, hospitals, farms and tourist facilities all damaged.

If Fijian unions request our help, we will stand by them.