1 Apr 2012

Fiji floods could be made worse by cyclone

10:05 pm on 1 April 2012

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

Fiji Ministry of Information spokesperson Sharon Johns says officials are worried about a further deterioration in the weather over the next 12 hours.

"There is a tropical depression forming at the moment which could have a possibility of turning to a tropical cyclone," she told the ABC. "That's going to be our next threat".

River levels are already as high as disastrous floods in 2009 and emergency workers are preparing for worse weather to come.

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.

All inbound Air Pacific flights were cancelled on Sunday.

Air New Zealand says the continuing bad weather in Fiji has forced it to cancel an evening flight that would have collected stranded passengers.

It says the next empty flight to Fiji is scheduled to leave at 10.30am on Monday.

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.

Three 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.