December 18, 2012

Hit bad where it matters most

Tevita Vuibau And Felix Chaudhary
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TROPICAL cyclone Evan tore through the Western Division yesterday leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

The tourism industry, the hardest hit by the Category Five storm, has said the damage bill to the country is expected to be exorbitant.

Fiji Hotels and Tourism Association president Dixon Seeto said with Samoa's damage bill tentatively pegged at $300million, Fiji's would be significantly more.

"When you look at the areas that were affected from Rakiraki right through to Nadi, there are a lot of factories and industries situated in these areas. And you also have to factor in the fact that Fiji has more built-up areas," he said.

Ba and Tavua special administrator Arun Prasad said early warnings had led to people taking precautionary measures and moving stock to higher ground.

Meanwhile, in Lautoka, the Western operations centre established at Churchill Park had to be relocated after the roof of the iconic stadium was blown off at the height of the cyclone.

Lautoka special administrator Praveen Bala said his team's focus was clearing debris before moves would be made to address issues with municipal council properties.

"We want to ensure that business is brought back to normal as quickly as possible and clearing our roads immediately after the storm passes will ensure this happens. Once this has happened we will start fixing our properties," he said.

When this edition went to press at 10.30pm, gale force winds were still battering the Lautoka coastline, uprooting trees and bringing down both power and telecommunications lines.

The Western operations centre was yesterday receiving calls from people in Ba and Nadi pleading for help after the roofs of their houses were blown off.

However, the Commissioner Western Commander Joeli Cawaki said teams would only be able to assist once there was a break in the weather.

Fiji's biggest sugar mill in Lautoka was not spared the wrath of TC Evan with the roof of one its storage sheds ripped apart, leaving stacks of sugar sacks at the mercy of the elements.

The South Pacific Fertilisers building suffered the same fate as ones at the Fiji Sugar Corporation grounds.

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