Relief agencies assist Fiji flood victims

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The relief agencies are mobilising to assist communities in parts of Fiji who are affected by recent heavy rain and floods.

Stormy weather has caused havoc in the West of the main island of Viti Levu and parts of Vanua Levu in the north of the counrtry.

Acting Director General of the Fiji Red Cross Society, Christopher Ho says evacuation centres have been set up in some communities to assist those affected.

Presenter: Clement Paligaru Speaker: Christopher Ho, Acting Director General of the Fiji Red Cross Society

HO: Basically our major concern is the towns that are situated close to rivers. In terms of direct rainfall on the actual towns itself, that hasn't been the major concern, the major concern is on higher ground on the places where we've got mountain ranges where you've got large volumes of rainfall. This actually compounds the problem in terms of the actual silt and dirt actually pushed down at a lower level towards the townships causing the flooding issues. Our concern is later on today we have the rise of a new moon, and also high tide happening at seven o'clock. And with poor drainage in some of the actual townships I think this can actually compound the problem.

PALIGARU: Ok so you're talking at the moment about what you're anticipating overnight, over the next day, overnight and then into the rest of the week. But can I just take a step backwards and ask you about what's happening in some of the towns in the low-lying areas already, because I understand that there's curfews in place?

HO: There are curfews in place, we've had evacuation centres opened up all around the western division, that part of the country. Our two main towns that we have a major concern with are Ba and Nadi, because they sit on actual riverbanks. Currently the Fiji Red Cross is working, we are actually part of the DM committee all around the west at the moment.

PALIGARU: The Disaster Management Committee?

HO: Monitoring the situation very closely, as of the current stage we haven't declared it a state of emergency, just going through cautiously evacuating communities that need to be evacuated.

PALIGARU: At this stage what impact is it having? What happens with the evacuations, and are people finding their way to evacuation centres and the like? What are some of the challenges being faced at the moment?

HO: I think the biggest challenge that you see as opposed to a cyclone when you have major flooding like this is it's mainly a logistics challenge, your major roads are cut off, accessibility to transport. The secondary challenge is that if this actual rainfall continues I think people in other communities will have their accessibility to food cut off as well. So we are actually pre-empting that. As you know Red Cross is into the provision of basic rudimentary relief items, like clothing, but we don't have the capacity at this stage in doing food. So our initial response is actually in the provision of just the basic survival items, in clothing, cooking utensils, things like that so that people can get by.

PALIGARU: And Chris how many evacuation centres have been opened around the country that you're aware of?

HO: There are 32 evacuation centres that's currently open. But as the situation goes I believe there's more being opened.

PALIGARU: And it is to these evacuation centres that you will be supplying clothes and whatever else is needed?

HO: Correct, we hope to do on the proviso that the actual flooding subsides, not only in to these evacuation centres but in terms of the vulnerable communities that probably cannot make it into the evacuation centres.

PALIGARU: Ok so then you're keeping watch on people actually in homes and the like as well. Now water might be a problem as well, is that something you're keeping an eye on because I see that there's some burst mains around the place as well?

HO: I believe that especially with flooding and especially during this time of year where we have major concerns with dengue and typhoid and things like that, not only access to drinking water but I think you've got some health concerns.

PALIGARU: Ok and of course that'll be the Health Department will keep watch over those areas. Now for you in the next couple of days as you mentioned there you're pre-empting a few things, where are you at, where is the Red Cross society at at the moment? Are you coordinating with the Disaster Committee or are you doing things on your own?

HO: We are coordinating with the Disaster Committee, we're also doing things on our own. Our branches are all on red alert and on standby. At this particular point in time I think that there is a risk in terms of sending our volunteers out when you've got water-clogged roads. So the minute that we see that there is some safe access we will be actually be going out and doing our own assessments as well.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation