Fiji declares natural disaster
SUVA, Jan 22, 1999 (AFP) - Fiji declared Friday a natural disaster in parts of the island state in the aftermath of flooding in which at least seven people died. The declaration allows the government to mobilize all needed resources for the provision of emergency relief assistance, deputy Prime Minister Taufa Vakatale said after a special cabinet meeting.
Flooding caused by a cyclone came on the heels of a prolonged drought, which destroyed 60 percent of Fiji's sugar cane crop last year and cost more than 50 million Fijian dollars (25 million US) in relief and rehabilitation works.
The government has begun distribution of emergency food rations to affected areas, while the Red Cross and other voluntary organisations are distributing food, clothing and other emergency supplies.
At the height of the floods on Monday night, the international airport town of Nadi and the nearby town of Ba on the northwest coast were under two metres (yards) of water as nearby rivers burst their banks.
Shops and hundreds of homes in low-lying areas were almost submerged and people had to be evacuated to relief centres. Of the seven lives lost in the floods, four were washed away by turbulent waters while crossing swollen creeks and rivers and three fishermen are missing, presumed dead.