1 Apr 2012

Nearly 7000 shelter as Fiji floods worsen

3:18 pm on 1 April 2012

Hundreds of tourists have been stranded in Fiji by the effects of widespread flooding, and more heavy rain is forecast for the next two days.

The island nation's interim government temporarily halted passenger flights into the country as floodwaters that closed the main road to the island's international airport left arriving passengers with no way of reaching their hotels or resorts.

On Sunday, there were 6800 evacuees in 56 evacuation centres in Fiji's Western Division, the Fiji Village news website reported. Nadi Airport was open to departing flights but all inbound Air Pacific flights were cancelled on Sunday.

Australian officials said they were in regular contact with Fiji's disaster management office to confirm the whereabouts and safety of tourists, and on this side of the Tasman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff say New Zealand is ready to help if needed, though Fiji has not so far requested assistance.

Two people have been confirmed dead, with one man killed when he was trapped in his car by floods and another swept away in a creek.

Big damage bill

Meteorologist Neville Koop told the ABC that the damage bill is likely to be in the millions: "We've seen very significant infrastructure damage," he says.

"Unlike the floods in January, where we did have some notice of them coming and people in and around Nadi especially had the chance to move goods and property beforehand, in this case it's just caught everybody by surprise and so the level of damage is just going to be tremendous."

The six-day deluge in January claimed 11 lives.

Permanent Secretary for Information Sharon Johns says the Rewa River, which is the country's longest river, is now almost at critical level.

She says emergency workers still are struggling to help people stranded in the most remote areas of the islands.

Reports that a couple and their two daughters, aged three and one, were buried alive under a landslide in Ba, have not been confirmed by officials.