1 Apr 2012

State of disaster declared in Fiji

12:55 pm on 1 April 2012

Fiji's leaders have officially declared a state of natural disaster in the flood-ravaged country.

Two people have died and 5000 people are taking shelter in 56 evacuation centres as strong rain, wind and floodwaters sweep across the west of Fiji's largest island, Viti Levu.

The Fiji government says the country's Central Division is now on alert too as rivers there continue to rise.

Permanent Secretary for Information Sharon Johns says the Rewa River, which is the country's longest river, is now almost at critical level.

She says emergency workers are struggling to help people stranded in the most remote areas of the islands.

The bodies of two men were found on Saturday morning - one trapped in a car and the other in a creek.

Reports that a couple and their two daughters, aged three and one, were buried alive under a landslide in Ba, have not been confirmed by officials.

Tourists stuck

The interim government has temporarily halted passenger flights into the country.

Fiji's national carrier Air Pacific has cancelled its in-bound flights.

Air New Zealand cancelled its Saturday morning Auckland to Nadi flight and will send an empty plane on Saturday evening to collect stranded passengers if the weather permits.

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says so far Fiji has not requested assistance from other countries, but New Zealand is ready to help if needed.

The weather bureau has forecast more rain until Tuesday.