Fresh Floods In Fiji As Heavy Rain Falls Again

Tuesday, January 13th 2009, 7:06 am
By: News On 6

SUVA, Fiji – Heavy rain sparked fresh flash floods Tuesday in Fiji, where thousands of people huddled in emergency shelters and scores of homes were inundated by a brown tide of rising water.

Officials posted the second severe flood warning in five days after a spate of tropical storms killed at least eight people on this Pacific island nation.

"This is the worst flooding situation in the recent history of Fiji," Meteorological Service director Rajendra Prasad told The Associated Press. "Two peak floods one after the other" was unprecedented, he said, and heavy rain was forecast for the whole country for the next two days.

Prasad said new widespread flooding would be accompanied by strong 55 mile (90 kilometer) an hour winds, and with "rivers already spilling over their banks ... I don't expect the waters to recede for several days."

Floods have swamped cities, towns, villages and farmland on the main island of Viti Levu since Thursday.

Authorities said six people drowned and two were killed in a landslide, while more than 6,000 people forced into emergency government shelters have been warned to remain there over the next few days.

Four days of torrential rains inundated the towns of Nadi, Ba, Sigatoka and Labasa on Viti Levu, the nation's disaster management office said. Sugar cane crops were washed out, roads severed, and bridges submerged.

The government Monday declared a state of emergency in the hardest-hit western districts of Viti Levu, where dozens of international resorts are located. There have been no reports of tourists in trouble in that area, though thousands have had their travel plans disrupted.

Disaster Management Office head Patiliai Dobui said initial damage estimates totaled $12 million, but that figure didn't include the agriculture sector.

In towns like Ba on western Viti Levu, floodwaters 10 feet (3.2 meters) deep surged through the area, with many homes submerged up to their roofs, he said.

"In Nadi, this is the worst flooding in the lifetime of most of the local people living there," Dobui told the AP.