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Villages on relief food for months

Friday 11 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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SUVA – The Fiji government says relief food rations to some of the worst affected communities after Cyclone Winston will continue for up to six months.

The Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the government would maintain basic support for recovering villages and communities until they were able to cater for their needs.

He said Koro island, which practically lost everything from houses to crops, would be supplied rations for a very long time.

The Commander of New Zealand’s joint forces says the more than 400 personnel in Fiji are there for as long as it takes to bring essential relief to the most remote islands.

Cyclone Winston battered the distant Lau Island group over two weeks ago.

Major General Tim Gall, who will visit those islands tomorrow, said crew are supplying water, repairing buildings and providing shelters.

Major General Gall said the New Zealand effort will remain focused on the Lau group.

He said around 100 tonnes of aid has been distributed and more is on the way.

Meanwhile, Solomon Islands has committed US$570,000 dollars as aid to Fiji to help the recovery.

The announcement came as Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare toured parts of Fiji devastated by the storm.

The funding is to go into the Fiji Prime Minister’s recovery appeal.

Bainimarama says the flash appeal would assist Fiji meet its immediate needs.

Bainimarama said Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston was a terrible blow to the country.

“Just a few weeks ago, the IMF released a glowing report on the Fijian economy and the bright outlook for our future. Now all of that may be in doubt, which is why a concerted programme of international assistance is so vital,” he said.

Bainimarama said while everyone was assisting Fiji by sending money from overseas, protecting the tourism sector was vital.

“As well as the money you are sending, we also want you to come to Fiji to be with us.

“Because most of our resorts are still open and because of the Fijian spirit, Fiji is still where happiness finds you.

“And perhaps, now, more than ever before. Because we have shown the world the quality of our island life. The resilience of our people. Stronger than Winston. Tougher than ever.”

The PM thanked Australia, New Zealand, France and India for their logistics support towards the country.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said in the next couple of weeks, government would make big announcements regarding its finances to cater for the unexpected costs of Cyclone Winston.

Sayed-Khaiyum said the $145 million that was allocated for new capital projects would need to be stringently monitored and some funds would be diverted to rebuild vital infrastructure in affected areas.

“So the cyclone will have an impact on all our finances,” he said.

“Whether it is a new tarsealed road that we were going to build to a hotel or a new water reticulation system, some of these things may now have to be put on hold.

Sayed-Khaiyum said while ongoing projects would continue, government would have to be extremely conservative in how it spends.

“And as the Minister for Disaster Management has said, we need to build better in future. We need to look to the long term.

“Right now, the reality is that north-west Viti Levu does not have electricity.

“We need to look at 9000 kilometres of electrical cabling to see if it is all working or not.

“We need electricity even in remote areas to enable people to have access to water because the power drives the bores.

“So we are going to have to consider talking to our development partners about obtaining finances to examine long-term measures like putting our powerlines underground.” - PNC