Govt of Fiji: Cyclone Ami News Brief 16 Jan 2003

At least 14 people are feared dead following the massive flood that rampaged through Labasa in the aftermath of Cyclone Ami. Yesterday, police in Labasa, with limited manpower, were desperately trying to locate the missing persons who were washed away with their homes at Korotari early on Tuesday. Labasa Police Station Officer Inspector Ram Chetty said three bodies have been found and police strongly believe that the other 11 were swept out to sea. The missing people are from three families whose homes were situated about 150m from the Korotari River. (FT)

The raging flood that swept through Labasa Town is estimated to have caused more than $20million in damage. While the figure is yet to be confirmed, Labasa Mayor Charan Jeath Singh said the flood had caused so much damaged to businesses and residents. He said the damage was such that it would take a long time to recover. Commissioner Northern Ratu Viliame Tagivetaua said an estimate of the damage would be compiled today for the Government. (FT)

Two naval ships leave Suva today for cyclone-ravaged islands in the Lau group carrying emergency food rations and government assessment teams. Commissioner Eastern Misieli Naivalu said two teams comprising DISMAC and health officials, policemen and engineers would leave Suva on the MV Kiro and MV Kula at 11am today. One team will head for Cicia where they will despatch rations, compile reports and then sail for Vanuabalavu. The other team will go to Vanuavatu and visit other islands in southern Lau. A third team leaves tomorrow on the MV Levuka for the Lomaiviti Group. Yesterday, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was part of an aerial reconnaissance team that flew over Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Rabi, Lomaiviti and Lau. (FT)

Thousands of people who braved a night of terror in Labasa are suffering in silence with no electricity, water or contact with the outside world. With the massive damage to power lines, electricity will not be restored until two weeks, a senior executive of the Fiji Electricity Authority said yesterday. He said the FEA's Suva office flew extra men to the North to assist in the maintenance of its power lines in Labasa and Savusavu. Yesterday, Telecom in Suva flew several technicians to Labasa to fix the town's main communication link to the world - a satellite dish situated at Delaikoro about 75km from the town. (FT)

Full restoration of electricity and telecommunication links are expected to take more than two weeks because of the extensive damage left behind by Cyclone Ami. Last night, Telecom Fiji deployed more engineers and equipment to the North to assist a team that was sent earlier. Besides the damage, workers have to wrestle with transportation problems. (FT)

Victims of Cyclone Ami can expect to receive some relief by Friday when two truckloads of relief rations from the Fiji Red Cross Society are destined to arrive. "The humanitarian prepacked relief supplies will be distributed immediately to those who are badly affected by Ami," said society director-general Alison Cupit. "The rations are booked on board the Adi Savusavu which is scheduled to depart at 9am today. (FT)

Farmers severely affected by Cyclone Ami will be helped in the form of planting materials and seeds after the Agriculture Ministry completes a survey and assessment of damage in cyclone-stricken areas. Agriculture Ministry officials from the Extension, Animal Health and Production divisions join officials from other ministries at the end of this week in surveying Vanua Levu, Lomaiviti and Lau. (DP)

The cost of extensive damage sustained to the Northern Division by tropical cyclone Ami is hard to estimate, says Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. A Royal New Zealand Air Force plane was not able to land on affected areas, while carrying out an aerial survey yesterday, thus preventing the government delegation from obtaining information on the ground. The problem was compounded by the breakdown in communication between the DISMAC centre in Suva and its coordinating centre in the North. (SF)

The army is awaiting assessment reports from DISMAC before deploying troops to cyclone-stricken areas. Military spokesman Warrant Officer I Neumi Leweni yesterday said a team of soldiers were ready to leave for the affected areas anytime now. "We are just waiting for the orders from headquarters - DISMAC is supposed to advise the headquarters on the extent of damage," he said. (DP)

The national Weather Office is predicting another four cyclones to hit our region before the cyclone season passes. Director of Meteorology Rajendra Prasad said four more tropical cyclones would form in the South West Pacific region. "Whether one (of these four) would affect Fiji or not could only be said once the cyclone does form," Mr Prasad said. (SF)

The Dengue Task Force Committee meet today to decide on what action to take to stop a dengue outbreak. Committee chairperson Doctor Timaima Tuiketei said all stakeholders, including Health Ministry officials and town and city council executives would be represented at the meting. "This meeting will be an update of reported cases of dengue and as to what individuals are doing to combat the outbreak," she said. (DP)

Labasa will soon become the home of the first private nursing school in Fiji. This follows a decision by Cabinet to approve in principle the setting-up of such an institution in Labasa, which will operate on a user-pay basis. The decision was based on a paper submitted to Cabinet by Health Minister Solomone Naivalu. The request for the nursing school was submitted to Mr Naivalu by the Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam (TISI). (DP)

News Briefs are published daily (week days) by the Ministry of Information and summarize the main issues appearing in the media. The Ministry will not be responsible to any person or party who relies on the brief for any inaccuracies or omissions.

[FT - Fiji Times, SF - Sun Fiji, DP - Daily Post, ST - Sunday Times, SP - Sunday Post, SS - Sunday Sun, FBCL - Fiji Broadcasting Commission Ltd, CFL - Communications Fiji Ltd and MOI - Ministry of Information.]


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