April 01, 2012

The Australian: Power cuts add to Fiji flood disaster

From: AAP April 01, 2012 7:42PM

PEOPLE on the main Fijian island of Viti Levu are now dealing with a severe power cut as well as heavy flooding.

A state of natural disaster has been declared for most of Fiji's Western Division due to the floods, which have killed at least three people and forced thousands into evacuation centres.

The Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) later said power was cut after a power transmitter fell into a river due to a landslide, Fiji Village website reported.

FEA chief executive Hasmukh Patel said a schedule for rotating blackouts would be formulated under which most industries get power during the day and domestic users in the evening.

Disaster Management Centre director Pajiliai Doubi told the website there were nearly 8000 people in 96 evacuation centres.

Three people had died and another three were missing, he said.

Incoming flights to Nadi international airport had stopped and by tonight scheduled Air Pacific flights out of Nadi to Auckland, Melbourne and Honolulu were cancelled.

In addition, an empty Air New Zealand Boeing 747 flight scheduled to land today to fly stranded passengers out of Fiji had to turn back due to bad weather.

An Air New Zealand spokesman said it was hoped a plane could land tomorrow.

The state of natural disaster zone is for most of Fiji's Western Division, including the Lautoka, Nadi, Tavua, Ba, Nadroga and Navosa districts.

Fiji's Central Division was also at risk, in particular the town of Nausori.

Meanwhile, a tropical cyclone alert has been issued by Fiji's Meteorological Service and a strong wind warning remains.

It said a depression moving southeast is expected to intensify and possibly become a tropical cyclone in the next 24 to 36 hours, bringing gale-force winds.

Also possible are periods of heavy rain and squally thunderstorms, as well as flooding of rivers, streams and low-lying areas.

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