2 Apr 2012

Fiji bracing for Cyclone Daphne

10:01 pm on 2 April 2012

The Fiji government says a tropical cyclone passing by the battered Pacific island nation has not yet produced any severe weather.

Daphne was forecast to hit Fiji on Monday night as the country continues to deal with severe flooding on the main island, Viti Levu.

Five people have died, another three are missing and about 8000 have been forced into evacuation centres following heavy rain which began on Thursday night.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Information says the latest victim is a three-year-old boy who died in a flooded creek on Monday afternoon.

The spokesperson says there are light winds in Nadi as the cyclone passes about 500km south-west of the country, but predicted rains and stronger winds have not yet arrived on Monday night.

The commissioner of the flood-stricken Western Division says officials are surveying damage caused by days of rain to decide whether international help is needed.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says the Government has received no formal request for help from Fiji, but it is ready and willing to provide support through the Red Cross. Military resources are also available if needed.

Australia says it is working with Fiji organisations to assess the damage and determine what emergency support is required.

State of natural disaster declared

The interim Fiji government has declared a state of natural disaster.

Permanent Secretary of Information Sharon Smith Johns told Radio New Zealand on Monday that the country has "had a bashing".

Ms Smith Johns says tourists should stay at home until the floods recede as roads to hotels are closed and the infrastructure can't cope.

Primary and secondary schools in the Eastern and Central Division will be closed from Tuesday until further notice. Most of the disruption has been felt in the Western Division, but Cyclone Daphne is expected to have an impact on other parts of the main island.

UNICEF says the situation is very serious. Its deputy representative for the Pacific, Isabella Austin, told Radio New Zealand the disruption to water and electricity supplies and road closures are making rescue attempts complicated.

Fiji Red Cross acting director general Christopher Ho says they are still assessing the situation, but are likely to ask New Zealand for some relief provisions and staff.

The president of the Fiji Law Society says parts of Nadi look like a war zone and the interim government does not have the funds or resources to help people.

Dorsami Naidu, who lives in the tourist town, says every shop and home has been damaged and they have no power or water. He says the military government needs to make available water and supply boats to rescue stranded people.

Mr Naidu says police have also turned a blind eye to looters and they urgently need help from New Zealand and Australia.

Flights cleared to land in Fiji

A government embargo for carrying passengers into Fiji was lifted on Monday afternoon.

Airlines had been flying only empty planes to Nadi to bring stranded tourists out.

However, Air Pacific said it would be carrying people on its flights from Auckland, Sydney and Brisbane to Nadi later on Monday.