Seven people died after tropical Cyclone Gene strafed Fiji, cutting power lines and water supplies, wrecking crops and filling evacuation centres with families driven from their homes by flooding, according to reports received in New Zealand on Wednesday.
As the cyclone moved off into the Pacific, the island state's Disaster Management Office said it had not been able to assess the total damage but half the country's population of about 920,000 may have been affected, Radio New Zealand reported.
It quoted an official as saying the town of Nadi, near Fiji's main international airport, was under water.
The category 2 cyclone did massive damage to infrastructure on Fiji's main island Viti Levu, where winds gusting up to 150 km an hour brought down power lines, plunging many areas including the capital, Suva, into darkness, Radio New Zealand reported.
Education Minister Filipe Bole said that all schools would be closed for the next three days while the damage was assessed and conditions were ruled safe for students to return, the Fiji Times website reported.
More than 50 houses in the town of Navua were destroyed by raging floodwaters and strong winds after the Navua River burst its banks.
Two linesmen were killed when they were hit by falling power lines near Lautoka, a person drowned in a swollen creek in Suva and another died when a candle lit during the blackout set fire to a house.
A woman died in a Suva hospital of injuries sustained during the storm, and another victim was killed while fishing. Details of the seventh death were unavailable.
Reports said power was gradually being restored on Viti Levu and the second island, Vanua Levu, as the cyclone moved off Fiji.
Fiji's Meteorological Service said Cyclone Gene was likely to intensify to hurricane status as it moved across the Pacific to Vanuatu, where it was expected Thursday morning, Radio New Zealand said.