19 Dec 2012

13,600 now in Fiji evacuation centres after Evan

4:49 pm on 19 December 2012

More than 13-and a half thousand people are now in evacuation centres as Fiji grapples to deal with the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Evan.

The storm, ranked four out of five on a scale of severity, hit the country's western division hardest and gave the town of Lautoka the worst battering.

But Evan is being described as different from previous cyclones due to the way it has affected so many parts of the country.

Annell Husband reports.

With the clean up underway in Fiji's northern and western divisions, the central division is now dealing with flooding caused by the heavy rain brought by the cyclone.

The interim government has declared a state of natural disaster for the next 15 days and the Fiji Red Cross says there are 13,600 people in evacuation centres.

The director general Filipe Nainoca says teams are out assessing the damage, including in the central division.

"It's not raining. Yesterday it was fine also yesterday but the water that was dumped by the cyclone in central Viiti Levu has reached the waterways."

Filipe Nainoca says the priority now is making sure people have fresh water.

Because of broken power lines and so we have water purification tablets and water containers which we are taking to assist these communities in when they get water to ensure that the waters are boiled and purified using these purification tablets so water is a concern.

Filipe Nainoca says tarpaulins are also badly needed and the extent of the damage is making it a challenge to meet the level of need.

But he says the Red Cross is trucking tarpaulins and relief packs today to where they're most needed.

Fiji's interim government is being urged not to neglect poor people as it works to provide relief and rehabilitation.

A consultant with the non-governmental organisation People's Community Network, Father Kevin Barr, says squatter settlements have been badly affected.

We've heard that one of the settlements Nasoso was completely blown away, completely blown away, others, Nawatikuma also very badly hit, and about five settlements right along the coast, Navutu, Taiteria, Kalifornia, that's between Lautoka and Nadi, they also were, the houses were very badly damaged and many of them lost their roofs and complete structures.

But Father Kevin Barr says something else that is often overlooked after a natural disaster is the need for psychological help, which was apparent among people affected by flooding earlier this year.

They said, 'You know, we've been brought food, we've been brought clothing, but nobody seems to care what's going on inside us'. So they were very grateful for the opportunity for forms of counselling to assist them with depression and some people of course were even thinking of committing suicide because things were getting so bad.

Father Kevin Barr says one good thing is that Evan does not appear to have killed anyone.

This is Annell Husband.