With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai'i
SUVA, Fiji (fijivillage.com/PINA, Jan. 19) - Police today continued to search the coast and river mouths near Fiji's main northern town, Labasa, for nine people still missing after Cyclone Ami.
The death toll in the Labasa area - mainly from rampaging floods which swept people away - is thought to be at least 12 as hope fades for the missing.
Help meanwhile continued to arrive for tens of thousands of cyclone-victims on Vanua Levu, the main northern island.
Vanua Levu, nearby islands, and the Lau and Lomaiviti islands in the east were battered by winds up to 200 kph, drenching rain and surging seas.
As relief efforts gathered momentum, a government barge was sent from Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, carrying badly needed fresh water for Labasa. The town's supplies have been polluted or cut.
The Fiji Red Cross flew in a water purification plant for Labasa Hospital, plus water purification tablets rushed to Fiji by the Australian aid agency AusAID.
Regional development secretary Mosese Sikivou said ferry operators Patterson Brothers had provided a roll-on, roll-off ship to help carry government supplies from Viti Levu to Vanua Levu.
Sikivou said: "On board the ship will be vehicles loaded with supplies, rations, shelter, water containers whatever is stipulated in that list that has come from the Commissioner Northern.
Sikivou said the government is also waiting for reports from assessment teams who travelled to Lau and Lomaiviti islands on navy and government boats.
These teams were providing immediate relief and assessing the needs of the islanders.
Telecom Fiji and Fiji Electricity Authority workers continued to work to restore communication and power. There were increasing questions about the breakdown of communication.
Government officials said the breakdown in communications is one of the issues which will need to be addressed in the wake of Ami.
Meanwhile, people on Viti Levu continued to contribute tens of thousands of dollars to relief appeals for those on the cyclone-hit islands.
These appeals are being led by the two major radio networks, Communications Fiji Limited and Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited.