Australia stands ready to further assist the Government and people of Fiji in the aftermath of Cyclone Ami.
To date, total Australian assistance to Fiji in response to Cyclone Ami stands at $135,000.
This includes $40,000 to the Fiji Red Cross Society appeal to assist vulnerable communities devastated by Cyclone Ami that Foreign Minister Downer announced on Friday 17 January.
In addition, $50,000 has been made available to the Australian High Commission in Suva for other emergency supplies and relief assistance, to be expended at the discretion of the post.
Australia has also contributed about $4,000 (F$5,000) in support of a Fiji national radio emergency appeal.
Relief efforts in Fiji continued over the weekend, with an Australian chartered helicopter (at a cost of up to $25,000) being used to assist in disaster assessment and to distribute emergency relief and medical supplies to remote communities.
The area covered included villages on the Western coast of Vanua Levu from Labasa through to the tip of the Udu Point as well as Kavea Island and Drua Drua Island. The team included an AusAID official and medical personnel.
Ground assessments of the villages most affected indicated immediate requirements for clean water and shelter, with an urgent requirement for food on Drua Drua Island.
The helicopter was also used today (20 January) to help the Fiji Red Cross distribute 100,000 water purification tablets (valued at $15,000) that arrived in Fiji from Australia on Saturday 18 January.
The Fiji Government is currently assessing field assessment reports of the damage caused by Cyclone Ami and the Australian Government will favourably consider further requests for assistance.
The Fiji Cabinet is now expected to meet on Wednesday 22 January to consider if any further assistance is required from international donors.
An AusAID emergencies response officer was dispatched to Fiji on Friday 17 January to assist coordination of the relief effort.
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.
A FRANZ meeting (France, Australia, New Zealand) was also held in Suva on Saturday 18 January to share information on assessments of emergency supply requirements and the assistance already provided and planned by the three partners.
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 to the Fiji Red Cross appeal will be used for communication equipment, water tanks, containers, pumps and generators, family packs and tarpaulins.
Fiji's National Emergency Operations Centre has reported 14 confirmed deaths.
The field assessments have found that major infrastructure, including roads and airstrips, suffered only minor damage as a result of the cyclone.
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 also dispatched three naval patrol boats to the worst affected islands in the Lau Group and Vanua Levu last week. The boats took medical teams and emergency relief supplies including temporary shelter, medical supplies, food and water to these communities.
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.
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.