Back in history: Bob strikes Fiji

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Riggers Esira Baleitavu, front, and Kaiava Tawase try to salvage a tower at the P and T transmitting station at Princes Road, Tamavua. The tower was toppled by the strong winds as cyclone Bob which swept through Suva. Picture: FILE

Tropical Cyclones are a common occurrence in Fiji. The 70s were no exception. In 1978 Tropical Cyclone Bob generated storm winds of up to 60 knots as it hammered the Yasawa Group and north-west Fiji, a report in The Fiji Times on January 5 that year said.

The worst damage reported on the night of the storm was of nine homes and a wharf in Rotuma that were completely ravaged. The district officer Rotuma, Firipo Nakora, reported this damage would cost about $8000 with extensive damage to root crops.

In the Northern, Western and Central divisions, gales uprooted trees, blew Riggers Esira Baleitavu, front, and Kaiava Tawase try to salvage a tower at the P and T transmitting station at Princes Road, Tamavua.

The tower was toppled by the strong winds as cyclone Bob which swept through Suva. Picture: FILE down bure (thatched house) and kitchens, ripped-off roofs, damaged food crops, disrupted communications and power lines and grounded aircraft.

At Lautoka, department stores, offices and homes were hoarded up and other western towns had braced themselves for the cyclone to hit. Nadi weather office forecasters said at 5pm on January 6 the cyclone was centred about 250 miles north-west of Nadi.

It was travelling about 12 knots, and it was expected that the cyclone swung about 200 miles west of Nadi by 6am that morning. “We estimate from satellite information that winds at the centre are about 60 to 65 knots,” a meteorological officer said.

Storm-force winds affected an area within a radius of 200 miles from the cyclone centre and gale-force winds, up to 47 knots, were affecting up to 300 miles from the centre. Remembering lessons learned from the devastating shock of Hurricane Bebe in 1972, people took no chances.

The Commissioner Western’s office remained open throughout the night with plans ready to handle emergencies Commissioner Western Narsi Raniga, said the Yasawa Group, Mamanuca Group, Lautoka and Nadi were expected to be the worst hit.

At Viwa Island and the Yasawas one house was demolished by high seas caused by Cyclone Bob. Extensive damage to root crops was also reported. Yasawa-i-Rara reported a 60 knots wind in exposed places, almost hurricane force, while other parts of the Yasawas were getting 50-knot gusts of storm force winds.

Cassava, yam, bananas, breadfruit and coconuts were also damaged. In the north, Labasa suffered gale force winds all day, rain, minor damage to homes, and crops and a power blackout which took two hours to repair.

The district officer Macuata, Ram Bahadur Singh, said no casualties were reported to him. Fruit had been blown off trees and breadfruit and banana trees were damaged. Some temporary sheds and small lean-to houses were blown down.

The radio operator at Bua said winds were extremely strong and rain was heavy but roads were still open. At Cikobia the radio operator had said that winds damaged rootcrops and seas were high. “On Kia six bure was blown down,” the radio operator said.

Winds were less strong in the Central Division but still uprooted trees, branches and sent people scurrying to put up hurricane shutters. The Emergency Services Committee, EMSEC, had issued flood warnings to people living in the Rewa and Navua river deltas.

A committee spokesman said reports from the areas indicated both rivers were rising rapidly. Farmers were busy taking their livestock to higher areas, out of reach of the waters. People of Laselevu Village in the upper reaches of the Wainimala River also reported the water level was rising.

A warning was issued to people living in the Wainimala area to be prepared for possible floods. “International flights continued to operate in and out of Nadi Airport yesterday, the Civil Aviation Director, Michael Varley, said.

Air Pacific had cancelled all its flights but Fiji Air flew 10 of its scheduled 12 flights, mostly carrying tourists from island resorts to Nadi. A group of Lami residents formed the Lami action group in readiness for any emergency from Cyclone Bob in their area.

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