The Heat Is Online

Fiji Storms Force Evacuation of Thousands of People

Fiji flooding death toll climbs, Jan. 14, 2009


Floods in Fiji have claimed the lives of at least 10 people, including three children, as experts warned of further severe storms in the Pacific state.


A search is also under way for 24 people after their boat failed to reach port in the capital Suva on Wednesday.


Thousands of people are in temporary shelters, and a state of emergency is in force in parts of the nation.


At least one major international airline has scheduled extra flights to help evacuate stranded tourists.


International funds


Meteorologists say Fiji faces at least three more days of storms, in what has been described as the country's worst flooding in recent history.


The latest victim was a three-year-old boy who drowned in a river after it burst its banks on the northern island of Vanua Levu, the Fijilive website reported.

A rescue team is scouring the waters off the main island, Viti Levu, after a boat carrying 24 people - 18 adults and six children - was reported missing, the website said.


Several days of heavy rainfall have inundated towns, submerged roads and washed away bridges on Viti Levu.


A state of emergency remains in place in the west of the island, with the tourist hub of Nadi badly affected.


"Stay where you are, and take extra care. That's what we're telling everyone," Patiliai Dobui, the head of Fiji's Disaster Management Office, told AP news agency.


The authorities say nearly 9,000 residents are now in emergency shelters, after their homes were swamped by muddy floodwaters.


Sugar producers say tens of millions of dollars worth of sugar cane fields have been destroyed.


The US and China have promised immediate assistance, as have Australia and New Zealand - despite the current diplomatic chill.


Both countries have sanctions in place against Fiji's military government in the wake of the December 2006 military coup.


Storm-Hit Fiji Declares State Of Emergency, Jan. 9, 2009

SUVA - Fiji declared a state of emergency and curfews after severe storms and flooding struck the Pacific island nation, sweeping away up to seven people and forcing thousands to evacuate homes, local media said Monday.


Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama declared a state of emergency at the weekend and curfews were imposed in some areas to prevent looting after days of heavy rains in the country's west, said Minister of Defense and National Security Ratu Epeli.


"It is basically to safeguard lives and property. We want to prevent criminal elements from taking advantage of the flood hit areas," Epeli told the Fijilive website Monday, adding dusk to dawn curfews were in place in Ba, Nadi and Sigatoka towns.


Police rescue teams were forced to pluck people to safety to rooftops in some areas as floodwaters up to 3 meters (10 ft) deep struck some areas, the Fiji Times newspaper said.


One boy was confirmed dead and several others were missing, including two young girls. More bad weather caused by seasonal storms were also forecast in coming days.


Hundreds of foreign tourists had been stranded in resorts, with flights disrupted in some airports and roads shut, while up to 9,400 local people had been forced to evacuate to makeshift emergency centers, the National Disaster Management Office said.


"A lot of the restaurants are shut. They've run out of food," New Zealand tourist Nigel Lagdon told TVNZ television.


Floodwaters had begun to recede Monday in the northwestern towns of the main Viti Levu island, although some areas remained inaccessible, Fijilive said.


Fiji's Works Ministry said the region now faced a health risk as people may drink water contaminated by flooding, while in other regions crops had been destroyed as rivers burst their banks to cause the worst flooding in more than a decade.