Tornadoes do happen in Fiji and regional records show events as far back as the 1960s, but they are a rare occurrence, the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) Director Misaele Funaki says.
His comments stem from reports that a tornado had swept through parts of Nakasi and Nausori early this morning causing injury to three people and significant damage to buildings including homes, uprooted trees and displaced residents.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States of America where the majority of the world’s tornados occur, this weather phenomenon is the most violent of all atmospheric storms.
“A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornadoes are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees, and hurling objects through the air like deadly missiles. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day or night and at any time of the year,” the NOAA website states.
While they commonly occur in other parts of the world, records from the NOAA and the regional geoscience agency SOPAC (now a part of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community) say they’ve occurred in Fiji as far back as the 1960s.
However, since 2016 there have been reports every year of tornadoes in Fiji, albeit small occurrences which did not cause damage.
Today, there were reports of extensive damage from as far as Tailevu and in parts of Nausori and at Nakasi and Nasinu.
While two of those injured during today’s tornado were treated and sent home, a third casualty sustained serious injury and was transferred to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.
In Bhawani Dayal Arya College in Nakasi, about 11km from Fiji’s capital city Suva, was not spared, with parts of the school building’s roof blown off and surrounding trees and vegetation sustaining damage.
“Tornadoes in Fiji are not new,” Funaki said. “It is but part of effects leading up to tropical cyclones. They are short-lived, but when it hits the ground the effects are devastating.”
The duty forecaster at the FMS Steven Meke said tornadoes have happened in Fiji a few times and said the phenomenon cant be picked up by their systems.
“It was a recent incident, but we have not kept track of tornado occurrences, but it has happened.”
More information about tornadoes, here.
Damage from the tornado