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Fiji PM plans cyclone assistance

Friday 8 April 2016 | Published in Regional


FIJI – Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is expected to reveal a key assistance package for those directly affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Bainimarama says the housing plan will be for those whose homes were partly damaged or fully destroyed during TC Winston.

“We have plans to rebuild homes,” he said, adding that there was a responsibility for government to replace homes that were damaged by TC Winston.

Meanwhile, shopkeepers are mopping up in the Fijian town of Nadi after a huge deluge of rain this week.

The busy tourist and business centre was inundated with water metres high racing down the main street and flooding shops.

Power was disrupted and the town closed as floodwaters rose quickly leaving people stranded and unable to cross in strong currents.

The two cyclones and recent deluges have set business back by up to 10 years says a retail operator in Fiji’s hard hit west.

The floodwaters have subsided in Nadi but Kishore Lal Raniga said the business he manages is already down several thousand dollars.

“It was heaps of mud, dirt and a whole lot of other things inside. It was really muddy. As much as we could we saved and the rest, it was in the water. It really put us in the soup and the whole country is under pressure you know.”

Ravikesh Reddy of Subrails Furniture Centre in Lautoka said it would take until next year to get back to normal trading and the business will probably make a huge loss this year.

He said customers are coming in to buy replacement furniture for belongings damaged by the bad weather and spending is being boosted by the Fiji National Provident Fund cyclone assistance which people have been getting.

But Reddy said in general business activity was down.

“The other main problem is that our staff as well, they are not able to come down and operate fully. We are not operating to the maximum since our staff are also affected by the cyclone. We need more time to recuperate,” he said.

Disaster authorities in Fiji’s west say they need many more tents and tarpaulins as the second cyclone in two months swept across the country.

Cyclone Zena followed a deluge of rain over the past week and the devastation of Cyclone Winston just six weeks ago.

The Western Division’s national disaster management people in his region are still in shock from Winston.

“We still haven’t finished with that recovery. We were still doing our response when this flood came and another tropical cyclone hit us. But I think we can manage to get through. With all the assistance coming through from overseas, NGOs, we’ll manage to get through.

“We need shelters. We are thankful to the overseas donors, from Australia, other overseas donors, but we still need some more. We have a team, a taskforce for shelters and they’re working on strategies on how to respond to the need for shelters.”

People currently seeking shelter at evacuation centres have now been advised to return to their homes due to the passing of Cyclone Zena over the Fiji group.

The National Disaster Management Office director ,Akapusi Tuifagalele, said 15,169 people were currently taking shelter in 329 evacuation centres around Fiji.

The Western Division with the highest recorded number of 200 evacuation centres.

Tuifagalele said people are advised that the restriction of movement order had been lifted. Tuifagalele said that Fiji was back to the emergency operation mode propmted in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston.

The Fiji Police have thanked members of the public for adhering to the “Restriction of Movement Order” that was in place at before the arrival of Cyclone Zena.

“The officers on the ground witnessed a positive response and clear adherence from members of the public,” he said.

Qiliho said there were few reports received of people ignoring the order.

He reiterated on the flood warnings still in place for some parts of the country and asked everyone to be once vigilant.

“We continue to receive reports of our young ones or youths frequenting these flooded swimming spots and for their own safety and health risks, we ask that they refrain from doing so. Flooded rivers, creeks or places are not safe to cross due to the risks of sewerage spillover.

While the Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) has restored power to 90 per cent of Viti Levu, rural areas in Ba, Rakiraki and Naitasiri will not have power for another two to three months.

FEA chief executive officer Hasmukh Patel said their infrastructure in these areas had suffered extensive damage and would take time to bring back online.

“So there is quite a bit of work to be done out there and we are expecting at least two to three months before we are able to complete all these repair works.”

“We are expecting a team of six from Tonga and Australia is now considering if they can send across some linemen to assist in the restoration work but as I speak, a team from New Zealand is here, 15 people with some trucks.

Patel also said the final damage estimate for FEA would stand at $20 million.

The agriculture sector in the West has suffered significantly after the latest series of flooding events in most parts of the region.

West senior agricultural officer Vinesh Kumar said they had been to Ba, Tavua, Nadi and Sigatoka and so far, the there had been major crop losses and vegetable damage in low-lying areas.

Most of the vegetables that were rehabilitated after Winston have been damaged,” Kumar said.

“And the seedlings that we had supplied for the rehabilitation of farms were destroyed too.”

He added it was too early to determine the cost of damage to farms.

“We would be able to have a better picture by Monday next week and have a determination on the cost of damage to the agriculture sector in the division.”

Ba provincial administrator Laitia Yabakivou said initial damage assessments in Ba also confirmed the agricultural sector being the worst affected.

“Apart from our sugarcane farms, we are also seeing a lot of crop and vegetable damage,” he said.

All air flights and boats services to and from Fiji’s north have resumed scheduled services.

Flights and ferry services to outer islands had to be cancelled on Wednesday following adverse weather brought by Tropical Cyclone Zena.

The body of the 19-year-old girl, who was swept away by strong currents on Tuesday afternoon whilst attempting to cross the Sabeto River, has been found.

The body was found washed ashore Wailoaloa Beach and was transported to the mortuary in the Lautoka Hospital and was identified by the girl’s father.

A 70-year-old man’s body was found floating in Sabeto River on Tuesday morning. He was reported missing when flood waters surged into mainland as Nadi River burst its banks.

The decomposed body of a 58-year-old man of Vatutu Village in Nadi was discovered at Uciwai Beach.

The man was reported missing this morning after which he had been missing from Monday.

The farmer was last seen heading towards his farm to secure his livestock and never returned to his village.

- PNC sources