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Fiji weather a ‘historical catastrophe’

Saturday 9 April 2016 | Published in Regional

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FIJI – Fiji is experiencing a “totally historical catastrophe” after almost non-stop cyclones, storms and flooding.

Tropical Cyclone Zena weakened and moved quickly over Fiji without causing significant damage during the early hours of Thursday morning.

Just six weeks after Cyclone Winston ravaged the country, Zena was headed straight for the southern region of Fiji, with the storm reaching a category three on Wednesday evening.

And while mother nature took pity on the country, with the storm weakening to a category two, Fiji still has a long battle ahead in the wake of weeks of incessant weather disturbances.

Unicef executive director Vivien Maidaborn said Fiji was in a dire situation.

“This is a population in an extreme circumstance,” Maidaborn said. “We’re beyond even talking about a hundred-year event. This is a totally historical catastrophe.”

“The thing that strikes me is just how tired people are,” Maidaborn said.

Fijians are known for their resilience but the recent run of meteorological disasters have pushed them to the limits.

Some families have had their life’s work destroyed.

Some Fijians have spent every last cent trying to get ahead – and stop relying on aid –- by planting crops just to have them destroyed again, she said.

The situations some Fijians were in, especially the likes of new mothers, was “unbearable to think about”.

Dirty water has led to the spread of waterborne diseases, she said.

Most of the population was already suffering from conjunctivitis, respiratory conditions were affecting people who were living in constantly damp conditions and diarrhoea was becoming common.

Unicef says 260 schools are unusable following recent weather events.

Maidaborn said the best thing anyone who cares about Fiji can do is to donate money to an organisation they trust – one which has a permanent presence in the country.

“Often following disasters, people donate goods. These are costly to transport and deliver to those in need,”she said. “A lot of assessment goes into what’s needed and in what order.

New Zealand communities had already rallied together to raise money for Fiji and Maidaborn said she encouraged people to continue doing so.

To the east, Tonga experienced heavy rain and high winds after the latest storm departed Fiji but Cyclone Zena had weakened significantly by the time it arrived in Tonga’s waters.

The Tonga Meteorological Service director, Ofa Fa’anunu, said the cyclone still had a category two structure.

He said the main island of Tongatapu was affected and 60 millimetres of rain was recorded in Nuku’alofa.

- Stuff/PNC