25 Feb 2016

45,000 people in evacuation centres across Fiji

7:17 pm on 25 February 2016
A damaged high school in Fiji's Rakiraki being used as an evacuation centre for eight families.

A damaged high school in Fiji's Rakiraki being used as an evacuation centre for eight families. Photo: Alex Perrottet

The Fiji government says there are more than 45,000 people, or about five percent of the population, in evacuation centres following Cyclone Winston.

A spokesperson, Ewan Perrin, said the number has jumped from 20,000 yesterday as communication has been restored to affected areas.

Mr Perrin said in the western division, there are about 22,000 people being housed in evacuation centres, and in the central division, about 16,000.

He said in the eastern division, there are about 3000 evacuees, and about 4000 in the northern division.

Mr Perrin said the government will soon be moving on those people being housed in schools.

"Now that the storm has passed we are hoping to get people out of the schools so we can restore some normality to the children, get them back to school as soon as we can. But we will move those people to other evacuation facilities such as community halls and churches."

Inside an evacuation centre in Rakiraki

Inside an evacuation centre in Rakiraki Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Ewan Perrin said the evacuation centres will be open for as long as needed.

"Basically they will be open for as long as we need. So we need to keep them open so people have shelter.

"We have already started some of the restoration work. The island of Koro was particularly heavily hit. Military personnel have already created some structures on the island in the day or two they have been there, so we are starting to rehouse people into those new structures."

Mr Perrin said as far as he knows, there is enough food, water and other aid in the centres.

He said the death toll stands at 42, but is expecting it to rise.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand government said it is working with Pacific communities as they rally to provide support for people devastated by Cyclone Winston.

The Pacific People minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga says many communities have approached him to find out how to help those affected in Fiji and Tonga.

He says his ministry is coordinating the help and ensuring aid is being directed to where it is needed most.

He says ministry staff are also in contact with aid agencies and local officials.

Meanwhile, 37 New Zealand Defence Force engineers arrived in Suva last night to work alongside the Fijian military in supporting communities devastated by Tropical Cyclone Winston.

They will help to clear roads, assist schools to reopen, construct emergency shelters, and assess damage to properties and other infrastructure.

The NZDF said it was ready to deploy another 150 army engineers, drivers, sappers and medics to assist with relief efforts.