21 Dec 2016

Shops left in knee-high silt after Fiji floods

5:31 pm on 21 December 2016

Shopkeepers in the flood-swept Fijian town of Rakiraki have a massive clean-up today, after floodwaters left behind knee-high silt.

Floodwaters are waist high on Toga Island in the Rewa River delta, on Fiji's Viti Levu, December 2016

Floodwaters on Toga Island in the Rewa River delta, on Fiji's Viti Levu, during the storm over the last week. Photo: Bale Bulimaivale

Local advisory councillor Nila Rao said it looked like a lot of the shops' stock had been destroyed.

The town was underwater yesterday after an intense tropical depression swept over the country, causing widespread flooding and landslides.

Flooding in Fiji in Rakiraki town.

Murky floodwaters swept through Rakiraki Photo: Fiji Village

Ms Rao said the shopkeepers were not expecting the water from the nearby river to rise as high as it did and left their stock on the shelves.

"All the frozen items, they are damaged, and I don't know what our Christmas will be like - because this is the time when we actually come out to do our shopping. I talked to the CEO of the town council, and he said it will take a bit of time for the shopkeepers to get back on track. Most of their things are damaged."

Ms Rao said the market looked as bad as it did after Cyclone Winston hit earlier this year.

There were some lucky escapes in her village, Caulasi, including a disabled man trapped in his home, who rescuers reached after wading through chest-high water.

The community might need assistance, including food rations, as many crops have been ruined, and shops have not been able to get back to business, she said.

The total number of people living in evacuation centres in Fiji has increased to 1716, with 95 of the centres now open.

Flooding in Fiji dec 2016

About 1000 people from the village of Muana said they were running out of food and supplies after six days of heavy rain. Photo: Supplied / Bale Bulimaivale

National Disaster Management Office director Akapusi Tuifagalele said there were 564 people living in evacuation centres in the central division, 564 in the northern division, 418 in the eastern division and 170 in the western division.

He said floodwaters had to recede in some areas before teams could safely continue their assessments. No fatalities had been reported.

Fiji Village reports the Prime Minister's Rehabilitation Fund has been activated to help with the assistance of those living in evacuation centres.

Mr Tuifagalele estimated agricultural damage at more than $US24,000, while the Water Authority of Fiji has declared total damage of $US850,000.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs