NZers in Fiji bracing for more flooding this week

As heavy rain fell in Fiji again yesterday, residents and visitors were bracing for more flooding just days after a state of emergency was called to cope with last week's floods.

While Dunedin travel agents yesterday reported no or few clients on the islands, at least one Dunedin family was reported to be struggling to get out, and other visitors sitting tight.

Former Dunedin businessman Maurice Bradley, who lives near Ba town on the northwest of the island of Viti Levu, described the situation as "pretty bad", as water supplies and power had been cut for days and shops were running out of basic supplies.

Phones were restored yesterday.

"It's the worst I've ever seen it and people are saying it's the worst since '73."

While the island had had one day's respite from rain on Sunday, yesterday it started again and further floods were feared, Mr Bradley said.

"People are coping, but if this goes on much longer it could get really serious."

Last week, 4m of water flooded Ba's main street and vegetable market, and the one-way bridge connecting his community with the town was damaged.

Another bridge further up, which was opened in December, was washed away, he said.

"People have nowhere to go; their houses are flooded."

Mr Bradley was surviving thanks to his home being on a hill, a bore on his property providing fresh water, and his having a generator.

Dunedin GP Nick Giblin, his wife, teacher Trish Giblin, their three children and a friend had been staying on the outer island of Nananu-I-Ra for about a month when the storm hit.

They were able to make it back to Nadi on Friday when the weather improved, Mrs Giblin told NZPA.

But their taxi trip to Ba had to be abandoned because of floodwaters.

On Saturday, they almost made it to Ba, but had to wait for five hours next to a raging river.

"There were no police, no army; there was absolutely no-one who offered help or advice to the 40 cars waiting with us," Mrs Giblin said.

After a back road was cleared, they were able to reach Ba, 3km away.

They arrived to "a terrible mess".

"People were standing outside their shops with all their products covered in mud. It looked very sad, really."

The family was yesterday waiting for flights to leave Fiji.

Dunedin businessman David Skeggs, who was staying on Denaru Island with family, said Nadi was quite chaotic when they visited on Sunday to stock up on supplies.

"It's [the water is] pretty deep in parts."

His family was planning to stay on Denaru until its departure date next week.

A Fijian hotel operator, Fayad Hussein, of Newtown Beach in Nadi, said he had not seen conditions like it in 61 years on the island.

Roads had already been washed out, making travelling difficult, he said.

All his guests had left and he had closed for the day because of the lack of services.

The persistent tropical storm in Fiji has so far left eight dead and more than 9000 displaced.

Weather forecasts indicate the situation will not improve in the next week, and more heavy rain is expected.

Roads from Nadi to the country's international airport remain closed to all vehicles except four-wheel-drives.

While the airport is open, long delays precede many flight departures.

As many as 600 New Zealanders are understood to be in Fiji and stuck in their resorts.

Health authorities have warned of a possible typhoid outbreak.

Fiji's Health Ministry yesterday urged people to collect rainwater to drink and to beware of contamination that could cause typhoid, dengue fever and diarrhoea.

A state of emergency remained in force in the western division of the main island Viti Levu, where civic authorities were trying to mop up as the initial floodwaters receded.

New Zealand will give up to $100,000 to help relief efforts, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said yesterday.

Mr McCully said the funding would initially be made available to the Fiji Red Cross.

Further allocations would be based on the needs of relief agencies.



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