7 Apr 2016

Fiji cyclone weakens, moves away

6:52 am on 7 April 2016

After a night of rain and strong winds, the latest cyclone threatening Fiji has weakened and is moving away from the island group.

Yesterday the storm had been upgraded to a category 3 system, but weakened to category 2 overnight. A strong wind warning remains in force for the rest of the Fiji group, and a hurricane warning remains in force for Vatulele, Beqa, Kadavu and nearby smaller islands.

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The cyclone has weakend and is moving southeast. Photo: Fiji Metservice

Tropical cyclone Zena comes after several days of intense rain in the west of Fiji that has already left several thousand in shelters and claimed at least one life.

As the latest alerts were issued, many headed to evacuation centres, disrupting repair work after Cyclone Winston just six weeks ago destroyed entire villages.

Mohammed Nadim shows photos of the house that was destroyed by Winston.

Mohammed Nadim shows photos of the house that was destroyed by Winston. Photo: RNZ/ Sally Round

Some of the poorest living in settlements around Lautoka have only been able to do makeshift repairs since the cyclone struck in February, as they wait for long-term help.

Check back here for the latest on Cyclone Zena

Stewart Beveridge and his team from the aid organisation Samaritan's Purse are touring the villages in the foothills north of Fiji's sugar cane capital with packs of bright blue tarpaulins.

They know where to go as they have been briefed by authorities.

Sometimes they just stop and help because so many people are in need.

"As you can see as you walk around, most of the village houses have got damage of some sort so they need that now, without even realising there's more wind, more rain coming tonight," said Mr Beveridge.

The local people are happy to see the tarps. They have few materials to make things good for the coming cyclone and more heavy rain.

Shiny new donated tents sprinkled through the valley seem out of place among the cane fields here.

Mohammed Nadim in front of his new temporary home.

Mohammed Nadim in front of his new temporary home. Photo: RNZ/ Sally Round

One has a big Chinese flag on the front, zipped up tight to keep the few saved possessions dry and secure.

People in the settlement are all talking about the coming bad weather and if and when another cyclone will develop.

Verinaisi Navuniovatu is not taking any chances and has packed up a few things, ready to evacuate.

"It's a worry and I have decided we are going to look for shelter now. We are not going to take any chances now. We are getting prepared to move before anything worse happens."

Mohammed Shamim, meanwhile, is surveying his roofless house, a jumble of debris nearby waiting to be recycled.

He expects repairs to cost $FJ10,000 ($NZ7000) at least, money which is hard to raise from his job as a taxi driver.

He's not sure what sort of help he'll get from the government but he's getting on with things.

"Every day I come. Work daytime, drive at night for my family's survival. Some materials I have got. I'm completing the inside now."

Without a roof first though, it's hard to fix up the interior when it is so wet.

Sikeli Matawalu is also trying to make a new roof but money is a problem.

He's had a $100 here and there from the church and friends but repairs will cost $FJ9000 ($NZ6300) he doesn't have.

His family of 11, including daughter Elisapeci Biau, are squeezed into the two-room shed still standing at the back.

"It's a lot of stress because we're just living in one small house at the back. All of us living there, all of the family. Eleven of us in that small house.

"It's very hard when the rain comes. The house got all wet and we have no place to sleep. It's very exhausting."

Pastor Mike Naisau of the C3 Church in the Lovu Settlement, Lautoka

Pastor Mike Naisau of the C3 Church in the Lovu Settlement, Lautoka Photo: RNZ/ Sally Round

Pastor Mike Naisau, who ministers to the community, said there was still a lot of need six weeks on from Cyclone Winston.

"Some of them have lost their jobs because of all this. The companies are unable to employ them for the time being. It's coming to that stage where food is a necessity. They need food, they need help. And because of the rainy season right now, there's a lot of need to repair the houses."

The stress of it all has been getting to many people.

A young father of two, Mohammed Nadim, now lives in an aid tent, most of his possessions gone.

He ran with his family from house to house the night of Winston, seeking shelter after his home was ripped apart.

The carpenter and welder proudly showed me photos of the neat brightly coloured home on the edge of the sugar cane fields which he built with his own hands.

He sits down every night with his wife to dream of the new house he will build one day.

"I want to build a kind of house which (from) both sides is safe. From the water, from the wind. It's in my mind."

With only casual work, expensive materials to find and only himself to do the work he fears that dream home could be a long way off.

People are collecting debris from Winston to rebuild, but torrential rain, flooding and Cyclone Zena has delayed repairs.

People are collecting debris from Winston to rebuild, but torrential rain, flooding and Cyclone Zena has delayed repairs. Photo: RNZ/ Sally Round

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