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Cyclone disaster continues

Tuesday 22 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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FIJI – Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama is calling for the rich countries of the world to help Fiji rebuild more resiliently after Cyclone Winston.

He said Fiji will have to rebuild to a much higher standard than before with sturdier structures, roofs lashed down more firmly and overhead power lines placed underground.

But he said this is way beyond Fiji’s resources.

He said when he travels to New York next month for the formal ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change he will send a strong message that what has been agreed so far on climate change is not enough.

Bainimarama said industrialised countries created the crisis but countries like Fiji are bearing the brunt of their excesses.

He described the last month as the most testing period in Fiji’s history – 44 people died and 32,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in the category fivecyclone.

Fiji has extended the state of natural disaster in cyclone-ravaged parts of the country for another month.

The National Emergency Committee said the extension, effective from March 21, allows affected communities to continue receiving relief supplies, and also allows disaster officials to coordinate with police.

“The extension period will also allow health authorities to make provisions against any possible disease outbreak especially in severely affected areas,” Fiji’s National Disaster Controller said in a statement.

“It will also allow disaster officials to fully utilise available foreign services and expertise in relief and recovery support.”

Cyclone Winston – Fiji’s worst-recorded cyclone – swept across the island nation on February 20, killing 44 people and flattening communities.

According to the government, an estimated 32,000 homes were left damaged or destroyed and 350,000 people have been affected by the cyclone.

Sune Gudnitz, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, based in Suva, said the sheer devastation to Fiji in the wake of the cyclone meant it would “take a while” for communities to recover.

“They are getting back on their feet, and they have been getting back on their feet since day one,” he said.

“But of course it’s going to take a while to be fully recovered.

“Some of the communities are severely destroyed or affected. The houses are gone and they need to be rebuilt. In some areas they’re talking about relocating villages to safer spots away from the shoreline.

“This is a disaster of such a magnitude that it would be a while before everything is back to normal – if ever.”

Fiji’s Department of Information said the stsate of disaster extension applies only to severely affected areas, including the northern Yasawas, Bua, Wainunu, Wailevu, Vaturova, Tunuloa, Savusavu, Rabi, and the northern Lau group.

The extension will be in effect until April 19. - FG