Fijian authorities were still trying to reach remote areas of the archipelago on 23 February to assess the scale of damage after a powerful cyclone tore through the Pacific island nation, killing at least 29 people.

There are fears the death toll could rise in the nation of 900,000 people when communication resumes with the smaller islands where thousands of people live in tin or wooden shacks in low-lying areas.

Aerial footage of damaged buildings in the province of Rakiraki show whole villages flattened and flooded after tropical cyclone Winston tore through with wind gusts of up to 200mph. Authorities have warned of "catastrophic" damage on Koro, Fiji's seventh-largest island. The Fijian government said it would send boats to remote locations in the archipelago of about 300 islands to provide urgent aid, amid growing fears of a widespread health crisis following the destruction of crops and tainting of water supplies.

An Australian government emergency response team arrived in Fiji overnight when the main airport at Nadi was reopened. An aero-medical evacuation team was being sent to the outer islands to provide urgent support and supplies, including water and hygiene kits, medicines and access to shelter. Both Australia and New Zealand were deploying aerial surveillance flights.

Food and water supplies are a growing concern even in areas such as the capital of Suva, which did not suffer as much damage as the more remote regions. The Consumer Council of Fiji has urged traders not to sell food and other perishable items which have gone bad due to the effects of the cyclone.

Winston weakened to a tropical storm as it headed towards Vanuatu, which was devastated almost a year ago by Category 5 Cyclone Pam.