The Fiji Government assessment team, which conducted an aerial survey of areas affected by Cyclone Ami on 15 January, will report to a meeting of the Fiji Cabinet on 17 January. (An AusAID officer participated in the aerial survey mission).
Fiji Cabinet's response to the damage assessment may include requests to international donors for emergency asssistance to the affected communities.
Australia stands ready to support Fiji during the disaster relief and recovery phases. In anticipation of a request for emergency assistance, Australia has indicated to the Fiji Government a list of key items such as tarpaulins and water containers which could be deployed at short notice from an AusAID emergency stores depot in Sydney. Depending on the nature of the request, other supplies and financial assistance could also be provided.
We have already responded to an earlier request from the Government of Fiji to charter a helicopter (at a cost of up to $25,000) for two days to reach remote areas affected by the cyclone. The helicopter is expected to depart from Labasa on Friday 17 January 2003.
Fiji's National Disaster Management Committee will determine the helicopter's flight plan once they have completed examining images from yesterday's aerial surveillance. The Fiji assessment team on board will be accompanied by an Australian aid official and will carry emergency medical kits. They will conduct both aerial and on-the-ground assessments.
A Canberra-based AusAID emergencies response officer will also be deployed to Fiji on 17 January to assist coordination of the relief effort.
Following an aerial surveillance of all areas affected by Cyclone Ami, a Fiji assessment team, accompanied by an Australian aid official, has reported that:
- Impact was less than expected, with most infrastructure, road and airstrips intact
- Greatest damage was observed in Northern and Eastern Vanua Levu and Cicia and Vanuavatu Islands in Lau Group with reports of flooding, crop and vegetation damage and damage to residential; property.
Communication has now been restored to many affected areas of Fiji and Air Fiji is resuming normal operations.
There have been no reports of Australian citizens affected by the cyclone.
The cyclone hit areas of Vanua Levu, Fiji's second largest island, and Taveuni Island before passing over the Lau and Lomaiviti group of islands.
Cyclone Ami is now tracking southeast into the Southern Ocean, and no longer poses an immediate threat to Fiji or the Kingdom of Tonga.
Reports from Tonga advise that the Kingdom escaped relatively unscathed from the cyclone on Tuesday night, with only minor damage and no injuries or fatalities reported.
Australia, through its overseas aid agency AusAID, has been in regular contact with key Fiji and other Pacific officials since the cyclone formed out of a tropical depression on 12 January.
AusAID has also been working with our French and New Zealand partners and, together with those partner countries, is on stand-by to provide additional support and assistance to the people of the Pacific who have been affected by Cyclone Ami.
As part of an on-going regional funded program, Australia and other donors have been providing assistance to Fiji to further strengthen its disaster preparedness and management capabilities. This has included training for Fiji's National Disaster Management Office in disaster and risk management, and in disaster preparedness, response and coordination.