FactCheck Social Media

Fiji’s energy provider warns over fake cyclone ‘blackout notice’

2020-12-17 16:43:02

The Statement

As Cyclone Yasa heads towards Fiji, a social media post claims the nation’s energy provider has warned that energy supplies would be shut down in advance of the storm as a “precautionary measure”.

The Facebook post from a Fijian user features a photo of a document bearing the Energy Fiji Limited (EFL) logo.

The post reads, “Dear Valued Customers, As a precautionary measure in the wake of Category 5 TC Yasa, that is heading towards the Fiji Group and depending on the route of the cyclone, kindly note that the electricity supply to the whole island will be shut down without warning a few hours before the cyclone’s effect is at the maximum.”

It continues, “This is to allow the efl personnel to secure and cover up the generator to prevent damage. This measure must be taken to ensure the safety of all people from any electrical hazards during the cyclone. Power will only be restored once a complete and thorough inspection of the power station and power lines have been carried out.

“This may take hours or days depending on severity of damage. We advise you to keep torches and other lights in hand as per your requirements.”

At the time of writing, the post has been viewed more than 16,000 times, shared more than 130 times and attracted more than 190 reactions.

A Facebook post
 A post claims Fiji’s energy supply will be shut before Cyclone Yasa’s “effect is at the maximum”. 

The Analysis

A notice purportedly from Fiji’s national power provider, EFL, claims it will “shut down the electricity supply to the whole nation without warning a few hours before the cyclone’s effect is at the maximum”.

However, an EFL spokesman told AAP FactCheck the warning did not come from the company and it will “keep the power system live for as long as it is deemed safe and the power system is intact”.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasa first emerged as a storm on December 12 before developing into a cyclone on December 14.

As of December 17, Yasa was classified as a category-five cyclone, the highest category, which Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) says may cause “catastrophic” damage including “some complete building failures” and potential mass evacuations.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama described Yasa as being in the category of the “world’s strongest storm”.

According to Fiji’s Metservice, the nation’s meteorological organisation, the eye of Tropical Cyclone Yasa was expected to make landfall “very close to or over the province of Bua” at around 8pm on December 17 with average wind speeds of 240 km/h. Fiji’s NDMO implemented a 30-day state of natural disaster.

Amid Fiji’s preparations for Yasa, a notice with the logo of energy provider EFL appeared online claiming the company will shut off power to the whole country.

EFL is a government-owned energy provider, supplying electricity to around 90 per cent of Fiji.

An EFL spokesman told AAP FactCheck in an email that the social media post “is not legit”.

“EFL will keep the power system live and energised for as long as it is deemed safe and the power system is intact. In the event the weather condition deteriorates we will take appropriate action considering safety,” the spokesman said.

The company also published a Facebook post clarifying that the notice was “not released by EFL”, urging people to “delete and do not share”.

Yasa will be the fifth storm worldwide to reach category-five strength in 2020. The last time a category-five storm made landfall in Fiji was Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016. It was considered to be “the strongest tropical cyclone in history to ever make landfall in Fiji”. Winston damaged or destroyed over 30,000 houses, nearly 500 schools and 88 health clinics and medical facilities.

A satellite image of the Category five Cyclone Yasa.
 A satellite image by NASA shows the category-five Cyclone Yasa north-west of Fiji’s Viti Levu. 

The Verdict

The post’s notice featuring the logo of Fiji’s national electricity provider, EFL, is not a legitimate warning, the company confirmed to AAP FactCheck.

EFL told AAP FactCheck the energy provided would “keep the power system live” during Cyclone Yasa for as long “as it is deemed safe and the power system is intact”.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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