20 Dec 2012

Areas of Fiji's resort-renowned island groups decimated by Evan

3:51 pm on 20 December 2012

Islands in the part of Fiji most popular with tourists have reportedly been decimated by Tropical Cyclone Evan.

More than 11,000 people are said to be in evacuation centres following the category four storm, which passed between the Yasawa Group and the Fiji mainland of Viti Levu earlier this week.

Annell Husband reports.

According to the Ministry of Information, supplies of water and electricity are returning to normal, with water being trucked to parts of the western division where resumption of pumping has not been possible.

In its latest statement, the Fiji Electricity Authority says power in the western division towns hit hardest, Lautoka and Nadi, are at 25 percent and 13 percent.

Overall it says power has been restored to 16 percent of the western division, 75 percent of the central division and 69 percent of the northern division.

A villager from the Yasawa island of Nacula and assistant manager of the Blue Lagoon Resort there, Timoci Tuiqali, was in Lautoka during the cyclone but returned home yesterday.

He says his village and others on the western side of the islands in the group have lost breadfruit and cassava crops but damage to buildings was minimal.

Villages to the north and east, though, were not as fortunate.

"Apparently Yasawa-i-Rara, the chopper pilot that flew me over said that the island just north of here was decimated if anything. So we were lucky. We're just one island down, but because of the mountains, they're volcanic here with quite high peaks, everything on the western side of the Yasawas, of Nacula, of Naviti, of Waya, and as you go down further, everything on the west fared well and came out OK."

Timoci Tuiqali says resorts in the Yasawa group are now getting more bookings because of severe damage in the Mamanuca Islands.

The Mamanucas are closer to Lautoka and I've heard of a few that have been shut till April. You know these are little islands that are closer to the mainland. They would have born the brunt because the cyclone would have cut through them.

Timoci Tuiqali says he weathered the cyclone with his father and aunt, both of whom say they have never experienced a storm of such intensity.

Mr Tuiqali says his aunt's Lautoka house lost part of its roof and the town itself looks like a war zone.

He says soldiers and prison inmates are out in force cleaning up.

Prisoners here we tend to use them well. They dig graves, they do farming, it's a proper system but I've never seen them used in this manner, to be brought out in a natural disaster to help clear and to help rehabilitate Lautoka.

The Ministry of Health is urging people to continue to boil water for drinking.

UNICEF's Pacific representative, Dr Isiye Ndombi, says it's working closely with the interim government to emphasis the importance of that.

We are advising families to keep children away from flood water, from damaged buildings, to boil and or treat all drinking water before use, to continue to exclusively breastfeed their infants who are under six months of age and to avoid eating spoiled food.

Dr Isiye Ndombi says the interim government is to be congratulated for giving people in Fiji enough warning and, as a result, preventing any deaths.

This is Annell Husband.