Flood-ravaged Fiji braces for cyclone

State of emergency in force as Cyclone Daphne threatens to compound damage in South Pacific nation hit by flash floods.

    Flood-ravaged Fiji braces for cyclone
    Hundreds of tourists have been stranded following large-scale flight cancellations [AFP]

    Authorities in Fiji have warned of a cyclone bearing down on the country that is already struggling with devastating floods.

    Cyclone Daphne is expected to compound the damage in the South Pacific nation, authorities warned on Monday.

    Flash floods have claimed at least three lives and forced 8,000 people to seek refuge in evacuation centres while the country's tourist industry has been brought to a standstill. 

    A state of emergency is also currently in force.

    The Fiji Meteorological Service warned of an approaching cyclone and said more flooding on the main island of Viti Levu, where both Suva and Nadi are located, was expected.

    It forecast "damaging gale-force winds" with gusts up to 110km (68 miles) per hour and "severe flooding of major rivers, streams and low-lying areas including sea flooding of low-lying coastal areas".

    A government spokesman said the situation was worse than January floods in which 11 people died, with twice as much rainwater falling in half as much time.

    Sharon Smith Johns, the permanent secretary of information, said Fiji has "had a bashing", with water and power supplies cut in most areas, many roads closed and food supplies dwindling.

    Angry tourists

    Thousands of tourists staying in Fiji's popular resorts were forced to contend with limited services as they waited for flood waters to recede enough to get to the airport, where they faced chaotic scenes.

    "The information we've been given has been terrible. They say flights are on but you turn up and they've been cancelled," said Dorothy May Pechalaiya, whose flight back to London was delayed from Sunday until at least Tuesday.

    "I had to sleep on a bench (at the airport) last night and I'm going to have to do it again tonight, and I'm disabled," she added, pointing to her walking stick.

    "I'm really angry about the way we've been treated."

    Although Fiji has not called for international assistance, Australia and New Zealand said they were ready to help.

    The regional powers have had a fractured relationship with Fiji since Voreque Bainimarama, a naval officer, seized control in a 2006 military coup.

    John Key, the New Zealand prime minister, said they would work with non-government agencies rather than Bainimarama's regime.

    "Typically what we've done in the past is give the resources to a non-government organisation on the ground we trust, say the Red Cross, rather than give it to the government to administer," he told Radio Live.

    Bob Carr, the Australian foreign minister, said his government was ready to provide up to $1.04m (Aus$1m) to support disaster relief efforts while Qantas, the national carrier, promised to put on extra services to help tourists leave.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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