|Air Pacific have suspended flights into Nadi International Airport [GALLO/GETTO]
A State of Emergency has been declared in Fiji after flooding claimed the lives of three people in the South Sea island state.
In an unprecedented move, the interim government has halted incoming passenger flights because the main road from the international airport is under water.
On Sunday, Air Pacific, Fiji’s national carrier announced that inbound flights were cancelled and only a limited number of outbound flights were in operation for those passengers already checked in at Nadi airport.
Fiji, which lies approximately 2,000 kilometres northeast of New Zealand, is highly dependent on tourism, which brings in around $500 million in revenue, contributing some 25 percent to the country’s economy. Tourists are mainly from Australia, New Zealand and the United States but there are no reports of any foreign casualties.
The floodwaters have forced almost 7,000 people to leave their homes. Many of them are being cared for in 56 evacuation centres in Fiji’s Western District.
Attempts to help the victims are reportedly being hampered by damage to many roads and bridges.
This is the second major flooding incident of 2012. In late January and early February, flooding claimed the lives of at least eight people following torrential rain. It is estimated that the six-day deluge caused around $30 million worth of damage.
River levels are already as high as during the flooding of January 2009. Then, Tropical Depression 04F claimed the lives of 11 people and caused the displacement of 6,000 others. There are concerns that the current situation could become at least as severe.
Local meteorologists fear a tropical cyclone could form in the region and computer models suggest that heavy rain will continue for several more days. It is likely that the country could see another 200 to 250 millimetres of rain during that time.