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Ex-daily reporter runs for life from ‘apocalyptic’ Fiji cyclone

James ForrestA former regional daily journalist has told of how he ran for his life after getting caught up in a cyclone in Fiji.

James Forrest, left, who used to work at the Worcester News, was travelling in the Melanesian country when Cyclone Winston struck on Saturday – with 42 people so far confirmed dead as a result.

James and his wife Becky were forced to dodge debris, splash through ankle-high water and struggle up a flight of stairs through 300kph winds as they tried to run to the safety of their hotel room from a nearby restaurant in the resort of Nadi.

Describing their dash for safety, James described the scene as “almost apocalyptic” in a piece for his former newspaper.

He wrote: “We take a deep breath, count to three and make a dash for it. It is only 50 metres from the restaurant to our room. We run for our lives.

Driving rain pelts our bodies and the wind – reportedly up to 300kph – is close to knocking us of our feet.

“We dodge debris, splash through ankle-high water and struggle up a flight of stairs. The power of the storm is frightening but we make it to our door safely.

“Fumbling, I turn the key and we burst into the room, drenched, exhausted and relieved. Water is leaking from the ceiling onto the bed.

“Crashing noises make us jump as the howling wind sends missiles into our roof. Yet we feel safer than in the restaurant, where the large glass windows were close to breaking despite a makeshift barricade of overturned tables.”

Earlier in the day the couple had escaped from Malolo Island, which is part of the Mamanuca group to the west of the Viti Levu mainland, on a six-person boat.

During the “scary ordeal”, the boat was thrown about by the rough seas, tipping “wildly left and right and coming close to sending us overboard”.

After their life-threatening run to safety, the pair awoke the following morning to find a “scene of destruction”, which included a 30ft tree in the swimming pool.

The scene encountered by James Forrest after the cyclone

The scene encountered by James Forrest after the cyclone

James concluded: “Thankfully most of the damage is superficial.

The manager says there are no reports of any injuries and all of the main buildings are in tact. She still says ‘bula’ (hello) jovially and asks us if we are ok.

“The Fijian people have been amazing to us during our travels – incredibly warm and friendly. It is likely to be a long and hard process of rebuilding.

“But I’m confident the Fijians have the spirit and positivity to pull through.”