14 Jan 2009

Fiji police say death toll of recent flooding stands at eight

11:44 am on 14 January 2009

The police in Fiji say the death toll of the recent flooding stands at eight although not all of the bodies of those believed to have been killed have been recovered.

Monique Devereux reports from Nadi.

"The police say eight people have been killed in the flooding, some swept away by the raging waters and some buried by a landslide. One man was killed in a car accident caused by the swiftly rising waters. Not all of the bodies have been recovered, including one of the 2 young women killed in the landslide at the weekend. The police say they are concerned that people were not taking notice of the flood warnings and getting to high ground quickly enough. The Fiji Metservice says the heavy rain will continue today and tomorrow, which will keep surface flooding in place and may mean further flash flooding."

Meanwhile, the director of Fiji Metservice, Rajendra Prasad, says the situation will worsen today with the approach from the northwest of a new system, causing rain and winds gusts over already badly-saturated land.

Mr Prasad says the rain may clear late on Thursday for southwestern parts, and then over western and central areas on Friday.

But the concern is the rain will continue until next week in Fiji's northern division, where Viti Levu has been badly-hit.

The Nadi river burst its banks again at high tide yesterday evening, putting the town at risk of further flooding of homes and shops.

The mayor of Nadi, Timoci Koroiqila, is worried what that will mean for his town.

All the businesses and others have had their shops damaged and all their merchandise are damaged in the recent flood, and if this continues, I don't know, maybe half of the commercial population of Nadi won't be able to stand on their feet again.

Timoci Koroiqila says they are praying for government assistance.

Meanwhile, an American tourist says she was relieved to have flown out of Fiji and arrive safely in New Zealand.

Many tourists are reportedly leaving Fiji after flooding devastated several parts of the country, with some having to stay at the airport awaiting a flight out.

Rina Faamoe, who stayed at a popular tourist resort on Denarau over the weekend, says getting out of Fiji was a stressful and memorable experience.

She says because the road to the airport was flooded, tourists were told to use a make shift ferry service across to Nadi airport.

We'd heard there was six feet of water across the road where we needed to go, so we had to arrange to get a ferry. And when we waited in line too, there was all these people with all their luggage massing trying to get on these boats . We had a ferry across and there wasn't really a dock - they just had to pull up to shore and carried our luggage across the water to the sand, and then we had to wait and somebody called taxis for us.

Rina Faamoe says food was also running out at the resort, with just one restaurant open.

Some Australian tourists stranded in storm-ravaged Fiji are expected to be flown home today.

Australia's national carrier, Qantas will operate a relief flight from Nadi in Fiji, to Sydney.

Fiji's Principal Disaster Management Officer, Pajiliai Dobui, has asked people to stop making unnecessary movement as the country expects more rain to come.

His comment came as passengers who were making their trip to and from Suva to board the Spirit of Harmony were stranded at Nabouwalu.

Meanwhile, Labasa town has been threatened of flooding as the Suweni river and Matalolo river burst its bank yesterday afternoon.

Mr Dobui has urged the people in the North especially in Labasa to start

moving to evacuation centres before its get dark.

The cost of the weekend flooding in Fiji is being tallied, with initial estimates as high as 8 million US dollars.

Most of the damage has occurred in low lying Nadi, where water from the Nadi River was funnelled through the main street and into every shop and restaurant.

One businessman says the level in his clothing shop peaked at 2 point 7 metres.

Fiji's Emergency Operations Centre says the loss of stock, and damage to waterlogged buildings and roads will total millions of dollars.

And Sugar Cane Growers Council has estimated millions of dollars in damage in the cane fields.

The Fiji Times quotes Council CEO Surendra Sharma as saying the estimate is based on projected output for the year.

He says the damage is huge, estimated by lodged cane, water logged fields, silting, debris and the washing away of recently applied fertilisers.

Mr Chandra says the resources required to compensate farmers can't be quantified but already the amount is well beyond what local resources can bear.

Meanwhile, the interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama has been visiting the disaster zones in the Western Division.

He has been to areas severely affected by the floods and some evacuation centres.

Meanwhile, Australia is provide more than 100,000 US dollars to the Red Cross and Fijian disaster management services.

And the Chinese Government has donated 30,000 US dollars to the disaster fund set up by the interim Prime Minister.

And the New Zealand government has donated 60,000 US dollars to Fiji for relief efforts.