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Death toll rises to 29 after Cyclone Winston devastates Fiji islands

Rescue efforts are continuing in Fiji, where the death toll from the weekend's catastrophic cyclone has hit 29. Officials fear the destruction of crops and tainted water supplies could lead to a widespread health crisis.

The unprecedented cyclone tore through the Fijian archipelago with winds of up to 200 miles per hour (330 kilometers/hour) late on Saturday,

leaving behind a trail of devastation

.

Images released by the New Zealand Air Force show entire villages flattened by Cyclone Winston, the first category five storm to ever hit Fiji.

"In some places people are going to be displaced for months because they've lost everything," said Ewan Perrin, a spokesman for the Fijian government, adding that Koro Island was one of the worst-affected areas after taking a direct hit.

Two vessels carrying medical supplies, food and water were due to arrive at the island on Tuesday, with crews set to build temporary shelters for islanders who lost their homes.

Fears of a health crisis

As Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama mobilized police and the military to help relief efforts, concerns were growing on Tuesday for the 12,000 residents on nearby Taveuni Island, with whom officials have so far only had limited contact.

Supplies of food and water were also a matter of urgency as rescue workers fought against the clock to provide survivors with the urgent aid.

Watch video 01:02

Huge cyclone leaves trail of destruction in Fiji

Officials fear the destruction of crops and tainted water supplies could lead to a widespread health crisis.

"Whole villages have been destroyed, homes and crops have been damaged, power lines have been cut and more than 8,100 people are currently sheltering in over 70 evacuation centers," said UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien.

With rescue efforts still under way, officials said the death toll could continue to rise. Fiji's population of 860,000 is spread across 110 of the archipelago's 332 islands.

ksb/cmk (AFP, AP)

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