6 Apr 2012

Thousands in Fiji still in evacuation centres

5:20 pm on 6 April 2012

Disaster relief officials in Fiji say they are looking at alternatives, including tents, to house flood-hit evacuees.

Some people have been able to return to their homes, but about 12,000 remain in evacuation centres, many of which are schools, following severe flooding in the Western Division and parts of the Central Division. The confirmed death toll stands at five.

Lieutenant-Colonel Inia Seruiratu, the permanent secretary for Provincial Development and Disaster Management, says as much as they want schools to reopen, they will not force people to return to homes that are not safe, Radio New Zealand International reports.

"Even if we come up with big tents or whatever shelter that we can give them. We are considering all our options now.

"As much as we want to take them back to their homes, we are mindful of their needs and their safety and well-being."

Lieutenant-Colonel Seruiratu says tents and tarpaulin are being flown in.

He says they will work with the Ministry of Health to ensure that surroundings and homes are sprayed before people return to prevent the outbreak of disease.

The authorities' immediate priorities are to get relief supplies to the evacuation centres and restore essential services. They will then conduct initial damage assessments.

A Fiji business leader says it could take several weeks before any meaningful level of business resumes.

Dr Ram Raju, president of the Nadi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says it is the worst flood damage the city has ever suffered and most businesses will have to start over as very few have insurance cover.