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Weather hits Fiji’s poorest

Wednesday 6 April 2016 | Published in Regional

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FIJI – Continuous bad weather over the past few weeks has started to take its toll on some of Fiji’s poorest.

Fishermen in the Western Division who are still picking up the pieces after Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston say their sufferings have been prolonged and aggravated by the bad weather brought by two tropical disturbances hovering near Fiji.

Varadoli, Ba, fisherman Jen Rao says he has not been out to sea for at least a month.

This, he said, was because of a range of factors including the unavailability of good bait and getting his boat in shape.

“We also have to keep an eye on the weather as we know now the weather has become very unpredictable,” the 42-year-old said.

Having spent the past two decades fishing for a living, Rao said he needed to ensure his family of five was well looked after.

“That is why I have decided to start looking for odd jobs so I will be able to support them.

“I have not been able to recover fully after TC Winston, my house was badly damaged and now, my family has to live with a leaking roof. All fishermen are going through similar situations and we can only hope that things will get better soon.”

Cyclone Winston aid distribution in the Western Division has been temporarily suspended, according to divisional planning officer Sitiveni Tavaga.

He said the prevailing tropical disturbances affecting the country had forced them to divert resources towards helping those who were now immediately affected by flash floods.

However, he said the distribution would continue once the current weather patterns eased.

The two days of torrential rain up to Tuesday local time has caused rivers and waterways to breach their banks, bringing further misery to the thousands who have not yet recovered from the devastation wrought by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, the Fiji Times reports.

In storm-lashed Rakiraki, the Fiji Times found several helpless families in makeshift homes and tents working hard to keep themselves and their belongings dry.

Swollen waterways and flash flooding in low-lying areas sent vulnerable families scurrying to higher ground.

“All I can do now is pray to God to save us.” Besieged by adverse weather, these were the words of Naocobau Village headman Sivi Niolodau as he related how soaking wet women and children huddled together and prayed inside a makeshift brick home and a tent during heavy rain on Monday night.

Like other coastal villages Naocobau was completely flattened by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in February.

Temporary shelters and tents could not withstand the strong winds that bore down on western Viti Levu as a tropical disturbance passed just shy of Nadi on Monday night.

The unrelenting rain also inundated an already saturated ground, forcing villagers to seek safer and drier shelters.

Niolodau said while the winds were not as strong as Winston, the experience was unpleasant for villagers.

“The wind and rain began to pick up and the women and children especially were scared,” he said. “They kept asking if this was going to be like Winston.”

The village headman said food supplies that were stored in a tent were soaked by heavy rain.

“The only places that we could shelter in were a tent given by the government and a makeshift brick home. But the rain was so heavy that it soaked all our food and belongings.

“There was nothing else we could do. While the men tried to secure our shelter, the women and children prayed together and this helped us get through the storm.

When informed that another tropical disturbance, potentially a cyclone, was imminent and one more was following that, Niolodau said all the villagers could do was pray and prepare for the worst.

- Fiji Times/PNC