Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer announced today that Australia has contributed $40,000 to the Fiji Red Cross Society appeal to assist vulnerable communities affected by Cyclone Ami.
Fiji Red Cross assistance to date has focused on the provision of pre-packed humanitarian emergency family packs containing clothing, cooking utensils, blankets, towels, soap, first aid supplies, tarpaulins and water purification tablets.
The Australian funds will be used for communication equipment, water tanks, containers, pumps and generators, family packs and tarpaulins.
Australia has also contributed F$5,000 (about $4,000) in support of a Fijian national radio emergency relief appeal.
A batch of 100,000 water purification tablets will also be sent to Fiji by the first available commercial flight.
A helicopter charted by the Australian Government is currently assessing damage caused by Cyclone Ami in remote areas of Fiji. The assessment team on the helicopter includes an AusAID official and medical personnel.
The helicopter left Nadi at 11.00am this morning, and will visit communities on Mali Island, Udu Point and Cikobia Island in the north-east coastal region of Vanua Levu today.
The helicopter has been charted for two days at a cost of A$25,000.
An AusAID emergencies response officer went to Fiji today to assist coordination of the relief effort.
The Australian High Commission in Suva has reported 11 confirmed deaths.
The Fiji Government is still to fully assess field assessment reports of the damage caused by Cyclone Ami and the Australian Government will favourably consider further requests for assistance.
The need for further Australian assistance will be determined by the Fiji Cabinet. Cabinet will make its decision based on the findings of assessments undertaken over the past two days.
We have been advised that the Fiji Cabinet is now due to meet over the next few days, once the National Disaster Committee Assessment report is completed.
The assessments have found the impact of Cyclone Ami was less than expected, with major infrastructure, roads and airstrips intact. However there has been some flooding.
The greatest damage was observed in Northern and Eastern Vanua Levu and Cicia and Vanuavatu Islands in the Lau Group with reports of flooding, crop and vegetation damage and damage to residential property.
Communication has since been restored to many affected areas and Air Fiji is now operating flights to Vanua Levu and Taveuni Islands. Authorities in Fiji have dispatched field assessment teams to Vanua Levu.
The Fiji Government has dispatched three naval patrol boats to the worst affected islands in the Lau Group and Vanua Levu. The boats have on board medical teams and emergency relief supplies including temporary shelter, medical supplies, food and water.
Australia has already indicated it is prepared to send at short notice supplies of key items such as tarpaulins and water containers. Depending on the nature of any request, other supplies and financial assistance could also be provided.
Since the cyclone formed out of a tropical depression on January 12, Australia, through its overseas aid agency, AusAID, has been in regular contact with key Fiji and other Pacific authorities.
Australia also initiated and hosted a donor coordination meeting in Suva on January 16 to discuss the impact of the cyclone and each donor's capacity to provide assistance in the immediate and longer terms. Representatives were from the Governments of Australia, New Zealand, France, United States, Japan, United Kingdom and from the European Union.
As part of an ongoing 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.