Fiji

Fiji: Special cabinet meeting for cyclone Ami damage assessment

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Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase convened a special meeting of Cabinet today to consider a consolidated and comprehensive report on the magnitude of damage caused by Cyclone Ami.

The meeting also considered the need for relief assistance and rehabilitation to be provided in all areas of Vanua Levu, Lomaiviti and Lau, which were badly affected.

Minister for Regional Development, Ilaitia Tuisese presented a paper to Cabinet covering the report from the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) on everything that was done during and after Cyclone Ami.

In particular, the report highlighted the coordination by NDMO of the various emergency operations. For example, the operations by Telecommunications Ltd to restore telecommunications, the operations of the Ministry of Works to restore water and reopen roads and bridges, the operations of the Fiji Electricity Authority to restore electricity supply, the Ministry of Health in responding to the need for emergency medical supplies and equipment, and the surveys and damage assessments carried out by other Ministries like the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Agriculture, Sugar and Land Resettlement.

Prime Minister Qarase said in terms of the NDMO itself, the priority undertaking was the ground surveys undertaken through the offices of the Divisional Commissioner Northern and the Divisional Commissioner Eastern.

"From all these surveys, we now have some indication of the total damage and the likely cost of what has to be done to provide relief and rehabilitation assistance," said Mr. Qarase.

However, he said it would be premature at this stage to talk in specific figures. The estimated cost of damage currently stands at $50 million. This figure is expected to change later on.

"In terms of relief assistance by Government, the main point to note is that emergency supplies are now being distributed through the Divisional Administrations in the Northern Division and in the Eastern Division. This is the first phase of relief assistance. It is for emergency supplies.

"The second phase of relief assistance will be targeted at individual families that require assistance in the form of food rations and other supplies over a specified period of time."

Mr. Qarase said what will then follow is the rehabilitation programme, which will cover all aspects of longer-term assistance.

"What was important about the meeting of Cabinet today is that we have clearly identified the responsibilities of each individual Ministry and the funds to be made available to cover the cost of Government's relief and rehabilitation assistance programme," Mr. Qarase said.

He said the Ministry of Regional Development will continue to be responsible for relief assistance and housing assistance through its rural housing programme.

The Ministry of Works will be responsible for the rehabilitation of public utilities like water and infrastructure.

"The Ministry of Health will be responsible for emergency medical assistance and the rehabilitation of public health facilities. The Ministry of Agriculture, Sugar and Land Resettlement will be responsible for the rehabilitation of crop and livestock, and the Ministry of Education is responsible for assistance to schools."