21 Jan 2003

120 people hospitalised in Fiji's cyclone hit town of Labasa

5:57 pm on 21 January 2003

120 people have gone to hospital with high fevers, vomiting and diarrhoea in Fiji's cyclone-hit northern town of Labasa.

The hospital's medical superintendent, Dr Ami Chandra, says it appears to be mostly gastro-enteritis but the health inspector is warning of a risk of typhoid, leptospiroris or cholera if clean water supplies are not urgently restored.

The sewerage system is reported to be leaking into the drains, raising fears of contamination.

Mayor, Charan Jeath Singh, says many people are being forced to drink from drains and pools because they're either not getting any water or the supply is intermittent.

Mr Singh says the hospital has been inundated over the last 24 hours.

"They're from the settlements which are just on the boundaries of the town and that is a very depressed area where the flooding was almost to the roof level. They are staying in the houses which are very damp and swampy now and with the silt so there are a lot of problems within the settlement which getting all this type of sickness."

Mr Singh says it could take between one to two weeks before the water supply is restored.

The mayor also says that food supplies are now being distributed by the army after a slow start.

Mr Singh is calling on the government to speed up its efforts in the wake of a disaster after reports that one thousand people in Labasa were starving after waiting for more than a week for supplies.