Cyclone Winston: Fiji declares ‘disaster state’ as cyclone batters country

Wind speeds of 177 miles per hour have been recorded

Fiji has declared a month long state of emergency after being struck by Cyclone Winston.

The cyclone tore through the Pacific Island chain yesterday, with wind speeds reaching peaks of 177 miles (285km) per hour.

A nationwide curfew was imposed at 6pm amid safety concerns and flights to and from Fiji were also cancelled.

People are splashed by a wave whipped up by the encroaching cyclone Winston in Labasa, Fiji, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama wrote on the government's Facebook page: “As a nation, we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We must stick together as a people and look after each other.”

Mr Bainimarama expressed concerns that some Fijans are not taking the threat seriously enough, writing: “I urge you all, if you haven’t already done so, to finalise your own preparations to survive this terrible event. We cannot afford to be complacent. And I am especially concerned that some people in urban areas of the country in particular do not appear to have heeded the warnings about the seriousness of the threat we all face.”

He added: “Let us all pray for our nation, ourselves and each other and ask God’s blessing on our beloved Fiji.”

The Fiji Times newspaper reported that some homes had their roofs blown away and that five people managed to swim to safety after their boat capsized.

 With additional reporting by AP