Residents of Fiji hunkered down Saturday as a ferocious cyclone tore through the Pacific island chain, prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and declare a monthlong state of disaster. Wind speeds from Cyclone Winston were estimated at up to 177 miles per hour. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama wrote on Facebook that the island's evacuation centers were operational and that the government was prepared to deal with a potential crisis. "As a nation, we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind," he wrote. "We must stick together as a people and look after each other."
The government declared a state of natural disaster for 30 days, giving extra powers to police to arrest people without a warrant in the interest of public safety. The Guardian reports that the storm is the strongest ever to hit Fiji and is believed to be the strongest ever recorded in the southern hemisphere. In the Fijian capital, Suva, United Nations official Alice Clements tells Reuters that the power has gone out and the water supply will probably be next. " I have palm trees flying all around me at the moment," she says. (Read more Fiji stories.)