14 Jan 2009

As Fiji flooding eases in north, economy set to suffer

5:08 pm on 14 January 2009

As much of Fiji suffers from heavy floods, the water has now receded in Vanua Levu's main town Labasa.

However, there are fears that water levels could rise again soon.

So far , the rain and floods have claimed nine lives, including those of ix of children and youths.

A state of emergency is still in force and curfews apply at night.

The deluge that has also hit Viti Levu has caused fresh flooding in the Nadi area and prompted roads to be closed after they had been reopened following last week's massive flooding.

The mayor of Nadi says the floods have devastated his town centre and he fears the threat of more flooding will keep the crucial clean up from going ahead for days.

Timoci Koroiqila says the flooding is the worst in 20 years.

Almost 3 metres of water surged through the town over the weekend, smashing shop windows and twisting security doors.

The Nadi River burst its banks again last night, pushing another metre of water back into the shops and restaurants.

Mr Koroiqila says an initial clean began yesterday.

"But because of this flooding we cannot do this again today. And the danger is most of this rubbish has foodstuff and this foodstuff would be rotten right now and the smell. it would become a health hazard if this carries on."

The interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has now visited Lautoka as part of his tour of flood-ravaged areas.

Fiji's Sugar Cane Growers Council has estimated tens of millions of dollars in losses in the cane fields due to the flooding in the country.

The Council's CEO Surendra Sharma says at the current price, and estimated harvest, the farmers' share this year would have been 90 and 100 million US dollars.

He says, having visited some of the flooded areas two days ago, they were looking at losses of about 20 percent, and with more flooding, that could be as much as 40-50 percent.

Mr Sharma says the cane is falling over, which it can recover from, but if predicted strong winds arrive, it will snap off, which would devastate the crop.

We have the added compounding factor of silting, debris having been imported into the fields. recently most farmers have applied fertiliser, this of course helps the growth, and all of that fertiliser, this is about 20 million dollars worth of fertiliser, just washed away. So when you put all of this together, in terms of the projected income from that crop, you're looking at tens of millions of dollars of losses by the farmers.

Surendra Sharma from Fiji's Sugar Cane Growers Council.