19 Mar 2010

Fiji police report another fatality caused by Cylone Tomas

11:03 am on 19 March 2010

As relief efforts continue in Fiji to help victims of Cyclone Tomas, a second body has been found.

Police reports say the man, believed to be a Public Works Department driver, was attempting to cross the river near Labasa when he was pulled under by swift currents on Saturday.

Fiji's disaster management officials believe there may be more fatalities caused by Cyclone Tomas.

The cyclone is believed to have blown away the homes of about 1,500 to 2,000 people in Fiji's northern island, Taveuni.

Damage reports are slowly trickling in after the category 4 storm battered Vanua Levu and the Lau Group at the weekend.

Ratu Mikaele Radodro, who is originally from Taveuni but lives in Suva now, says most phone lines to his home island are down, but he managed to speak to his family.

Ratu Mikaele says the storm has badly affected three villages and a few additional settlements.

"Most of the houses have been blown off. The community is a farming community and the crops have been badly damaged. About 25 people were in the hospital when the roof was taken off, mostly from the maternity unit."

Ratu Mikaele says New Zealand and Australian air force staff have dropped supplies to the villagers, including tents, when they flew over the area to assess the destruction.

The Chinese embassy has given the Fiji interim prime minister 25,000 US dollars follwoing Cyclone Tomas.

Fijivillage reports that the Chinese Ambassador Dr Han Zhiqiang presented the donation at Government Buildings.

The Chinese government has also given 50,000 US dollars for emergency humanitarian aid through the Red Cross Society of Fiji.

Meanwhile, Tourism Fiji says despite the impact of Cyclone Tomas, it is business as usual in country's western region.

It says the storm had little impact in the west of Viti Levu where much of the country's tourism infrastructure is located.

The CEO of Tourism Fiji, Josefa Tuamoto, says only five per cent of the resorts are in the northern division, with the remainder in the Mamanuca, the Yasawas and western Viti Levu being unaffected.

He says they have been fielding calls from travellers wanting to cancel bookings but there is no need.

Some of them, some of the Kiwis who were planning to travel in June are now considering cancelling. We are saying you don't have to do that. As I have said 95 percent of the operations [are functioning]. And we are just trying to correct that perception in the market - that the whole of Fiji is devastated, which it's not.

Josefa Tuamoto, the CEO of Tourism Fiji