Two people die after Fiji hit by unexpected flooding

Two people are dead after significant flooding in Fiji over the weekend washed away roads and damaged a major water treatment plant that supplies potable water to most of the capital, Suva.

The two men died in separate incidents while reportedly trying to cross flooded rivers on Fiji's biggest island, Viti Levu.

Police reiterated warnings for people not to cross rivers, and reminded people to be vigilant and cautious around flooded areas.

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) reporter Ellen Stolls covered the floods over the weekend and told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program police were disappointed that people were not heeding warnings.

Ms Stolls reported the body of one of the men, a Fiji National University student, was retrieved on Sunday, but the other man was still missing.

The heavy rain and flooding badly damaged the Tamavua Water Treatment Plant, affecting water supplies to thousands of people in central Suva.

The Water Authority of Fiji also said the main trunk line carrying untreated waste from greater Suva collapsed and sewage spilt into a creek which flows through several villages.

Stolls said engineers were working to fix the pipe, but it was expected to take some time, leaving the villages to cope with a "stench" and environmental impacts.

El Nino effect to blame: weather service

Meteorologist Neville Koop, of Fiji's Na Draki weather service, said the impact of the rain was unexpected.

Speaking to Pacific Beat, Mr Koop said December was the beginning of monsoon season, but meteorologists had not predicted such heavy falls out of an event that had looked innocuous.

"It certainly did dump down, mostly in isolated pockets," he said.

"Here in Suva we had about 177 millimetres fall in about seven hours, between 2am and 9am on Saturday morning."

International weather bureaux have cautiously predicted an El Nino event will develop this year, based on a warming of waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the main indicator of the event.

Mr Koop said the weather phenomenon did contribute to the heavy rain over Fiji on the weekend.

"We've been watching El Nino wax and wane through the latter half of 2014," he said.

"But we are starting to see El Nino conditions become more established now.

"One of the factors we'll experience with that is the main area of convection which normally develops over Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and even the Solomon Islands during summer will probably go further into the Pacific.

"I think this rainfall and this activity in the South Pacific convergent zone is perhaps part of that relocation of the main upward branch of what we call the water circulation moving from the Western Pacific into the central Pacific.

Mr Koop said the rain had passed to the far north of Fiji, but there was still a chance of more heavy rain around the region this week, particularly over Samoa and Tonga.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation