23 Mar 2010

Outbreak of typhoid feared in cyclone-hit Fiji

5:58 am on 23 March 2010

Global aid agency Unicef says it is hurrying to treat an outbreak of serious disease in Fiji, thought to be typhoid.

Unicef's deputy representative for the Pacific, Tim Sutton, says a government health worker has discovered 16 people in Labassa, on the island of Vanua Levu, with bloody diarrhoea.

He says tests will show whether the illness is typhoid, shigellosis, cholera or something else.

But a Health Ministry spokesperson says that while eight cases of serious illness have been recorded in the Northern Division, there are no suspected cases of typhoid.

Aid agencies have been waiting for the illness to re-emerge, after the country counted 114 cases in the lead-up to Cyclone Tomas.

First-aid supplies, including water purification kits, were due to arrive on Monday for residents on remote island groups affected by the cyclone.

Worst in living memory, says former PM

Northern parts of the Lau and Lomaiviti groups were the worst hit last week as Tomas pounded coastlines with swells of up to eight metres high.

Former prime minister Laisenia Qarase, leader of the SDL Party, says there was widespread destruction on his island of Vanua Balavu, in the Lau group.

Calling Tomas the most damaging storm in living memory, Mr Qarase says 20 of the 55 homes in his home village of Mavana were destroyed, and that reports from other villages tell of similar damage.

He says the coconut industry - the island's main source of income - has been destroyed.