Fiji floods: Disease warning at evacuation centres

By Amelia Wade, Paul Harper

Torrential rains have resulted in widespread flooding across the Western Division, stranding thousands. Photo / Supplied
Torrential rains have resulted in widespread flooding across the Western Division, stranding thousands. Photo / Supplied

Fijian authorities have warned of possible outbreaks of communicable diseases at evacuation centres filled with people fleeing flooded towns.

Meanwhile the New Zealand Government has made $500,000 available to Fijian authorities as a tropical cyclone threatens to further batter the small island nation.

Severe weather pounded Fiji at the weekend, causing flash floods that have left seven people dead and three missing, forced thousands to evacuate their homes and cut off power and water. A state of natural disaster has been declared for most of Fiji's Western Division.

Rainfall today has slowed and rivers have receded, however the country remains vigilant as a cyclone passes to the west of Fiji.

The Fiji Meteorological Service forecast Tropical Cyclone Daphne would pass at least 500km to the southwest of Nadi, bringing damaging gale force winds to the south-western half of the country and further flooding of low-lying areas.

However the agency has this morning lifted a strong wind warning and a severe flood warning which had been in place for all major rivers and stream. The weather is forecast to clear up by Thursday.

More than 11,000 people in the western division are at 117 evacuation centres in the Western Division.

Divisional health inspector Dip Chand told the Fiji Times medical teams have been deployed to the evacuation centres, amid fears of possible outbreaks.

He said strategies had been put in place to prevent or contain diseases.

"There should be no grog drinking, smoking or merrymaking allowed at these centres," he told the Fiji Times. "People have to respect that there are elderly, women and children at these centres and there needs to be policies in place to address this."

Nadi's main road has been closed and is under police guard, the Times reports, and the smell of decomposing food and silt is in the air.

NZ Government promises aid

Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced this morning $500,000 will be immediately made available to agencies assisting flood victims in Fiji.

"In addition to the reported deaths thousands have been forced from their homes and into evacuation centres," Mr McCully said.

"The situation is severe as Fiji is still recovering from January's floods and many response agencies will not have fully replenished their supplies.

"New Zealand's funding will be provided to the Fiji Red Cross, and other non-government agencies well positioned to respond. New Zealand always stands ready to help the people of Fiji when disaster strikes.

"We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will consider further support based on the needs of relief agencies who are working with flood-affected communities," Mr McCully says.

New Zealand provided $350,000 to the Fiji Red Cross to support the response to severe floods in January and a further $1.5 million to the Fiji Natural Disaster Management Office and to refurbish evacuation centres.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 460 New Zealanders were registered as being in Fiji, 118 of them in Nadi.

New Zealanders have been advised against all tourist and non-essential travel to parts of the Western Division of Viti Levu, including Nadi and the Coral Coast.

Air New Zealand yesterday cancelled a scheduled A320 flight to Nadi but sent in its place a larger, empty aircraft so it could bring back more stranded passengers.

The Fijian Government has lifted its temporary embargo on airlines carrying passengers on flights into Fiji and Air New Zealand said its next scheduled flight from Auckland to Nadi would go ahead as planned this morning.

"Air New Zealand will continue to monitor weather conditions in Fiji and passengers who are in the Nadi area should check regularly with their hotel for updates," a spokeswoman said.

Fundraising efforts

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army has launched an appeal to support the flood-ravaged nation.

It is requesting financial assistance only - not food or clothing, as it is difficult to get such donations through to Fiji.

Auckland-based Radio Apna 990AM has also launched a radio-thon to raise money for those affected. The radio-thon will run until 12am Thursday.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 23 Jul 2014 06:12:24 Processing Time: 804ms