April 02, 2012

Flood-damaged Fiji likened to warzone

By Lindy Kerin
Updated April 02, 2012 19:12:38

People in flood-ravaged Fiji have begun returning home after spending several days in evacuation centres.

At least four people have died in some of the worst flooding the country has seen in decades.

But the worst may not be over, with more heavy rain predicted tomorrow after a tropical cyclone formed this afternoon.

Tafazul Gani, a correspondent for a Fijian magazine, says many of the island's residents are struggling to cope.

"A lot of people are thinking 'what do we do next? How do we cope?' And having two floods in a matter of a couple of days, a lot of people they don't have basically anything," he said.

Mr Gani is in one of the worst affected areas of Nadi. He says flood damage there is extensive.

"Basically, if you look at the town, the town is totally decimated. It actually looks like a warzone," he said.

"There is not a single shop in the town which has not been affected. Some shops actually have nothing left, everything that was in the shop, the counter, the merchandise, everything got washed away."

But floodwaters have now begun to drop and the clean up has started.

Tourist flights into Nadi have resumed but power is still cut off in many areas.

Fiji government spokeswoman Sharon Johns says the extent of damage is still being assessed.

"It's quite extensive. In Nadi town, shops in Nadi town, the floodwaters went right through that," she said.

"The bridge hasn't been damaged but the infrastructure around the bridge, you can see, electricity's out, water's out. There is quite a lot of damage here."

Returning home
Over the past few days about 8,000 people sought refuge in evacuation centres.

Ms Johns says some have now started to return home.

"It hasn't rained up here at all in the last 12 hours, which is great. So people are actually starting to return to their homes," she said.

"I was just at an evacuation centre in Nadi where there was a four-day-old baby and her mother, and they were all doing very well.

"They're being well looked after that, rations are getting to them. We're ... organising water sterilisers for the children especially.

"So evacuation centres we would expect that to decrease slowly over the coming days."

New threat
After massive rainfall over the past 72 hours, Fijians are bracing for more rain after Tropical Cyclone Daphne formed on Monday afternoon.

Nadraki Weather Centre spokesman Neville Koop says some of the western parts of the country have copped up to 800 millimetres of rain.

He says there is a chance of further flooding.

"The $64 question is how much rain? And the answer to that lies in how long the rain band stays over Fiji," he said.

"At this stage, my best estimate is about 10 to 12 hours. And if we assume an average rain rate of about 15 millimetres an hour in this sort of system, we have around about 150 to 180 millimetres potential rainfall.

"So there's certainly the possibility that this rain may push the rivers back into flood situation later tomorrow."

Tourist flights into Fiji were stopped last night but most airlines have resumed all services.

Australia has offered $1 million in aid to Fiji for water sanitation, blankets and other supplies.

No comments: