29 Apr 2020

Evacuations urged in rain-drenched Fiji

4:54 pm on 29 April 2020

People in areas of Fiji badly-hit by Cyclone Harold this month are now being urged to evacuate because of widespread flooding and landslides brought on by torrential rain.

Rakiraki Village in Yale, Kadavu.

Rakiraki Village in Yale, Kadavu. Photo: Supplied/Fiji govt

The National Disaster Management Office issued heavy rain and flash-flood warnings and said a strong wind and rough sea alert remained in force for Southern Lau, Southern Koro and Kadavu.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said it was unfortunate the heavy rains had arrived on the heels of Cyclone Harold.

"If you feel unsafe where you are, move to an evacuation centre," he said.

"These centres will be run and maintained in the same safe and hygienic fashion we saw during Cyclone Harold."

Mr Bainimarama said while Fiji was not facing another cyclone, heavy rains could still lead to dangerous flooding which could cost lives.

The Fiji Meteorological Service said a slow-moving trough of low pressure had been dumping heavy rains across the country since Monday.

Homes along River Road in Narere.

Homes along River Road in Narere. Photo: Supplied/Fiji NDMO

Director Misaeli Funaki said rain would continue over eastern and interior parts of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni and its nearby Islands, Lau and Lomaiviti group, Kadavu, Vatulele and Beqa.

Mr Funaki said a flood warning was in force for Waidina, Wainibuka, Wainimala River, Naboutini Flats to Navua, low-lying areas between Veisari and Lami Town, and low-lying flood-prone areas between Suva, Nausori and Korovou Town.

"Seafarers and mariners who want to travel into the above stated marine areas should expect southeast winds with speeds of 45 to 55km/hr. It's rough seas."

The prime minister said people should not attempt to travel by sea in these regions.

"Keep your boats moored until authorities advise it is safe to get back on the water."

"Be prepared"

Mr Bainimarama said Rakiraki Village in Yale, Kadavu, had seen dangerous flooding on Monday.

He urged the public to prepare for severe weather conditions all week.

"Following Cyclone Harold, our soil is already saturated and unstable, making the risk of landslides extremely high. Do not congregate or seek shelter in buildings beneath steeply sloped areas.

"Do not swim in rivers or streams, or risk crossing the rapids. All too often, we see Fijians - particularly children - drown in these conditions. These aren't the same waters you're used to crossing, so don't treat them the same way you do on any ordinary day.

"They are unpredictable, they can carry heavy debris and they are deadly. So be prepared."

Colata Crossing in Korovou.

Colata Crossing in Korovou. Photo: Supplied/Fiji NDMO

Flood dangers

The prime minister called on parents to strictly supervise their children and avoid playing in the rain.

Mr Bainimarama said even if the children avoided the dangers of flooding while outdoors, the waters could carry diseases.

"Given the recent, post-cyclone rise in LTDD cases - Leptospirosis, Typhoid, Dengue, and Diarrhoea - all Fijians need to take this threat seriously. Wet conditions will serve as a breeding ground for these life-threatening ailments.

The prime minister said disaster authorities had just completed the first phase of operations in response to Cyclone Harold.

"With these rains upon us, there will be no rest of the weary - our frontline disaster response teams will be closely monitoring the movements of the general public and providing vital information to Fijians in heavily impacted areas."

River Road in Narere.

River Road in Narere. Photo: Supplied/Fiji NDMO

Roads closed

Meanwhile, the Roads Authority said roads had been closed at Naqali due to flooding.

The authority said these included roads from Nabukaluka Delailasakau to Waisomo Crossing; from Vatulili Road to Waidradra Crossing; Navulokani Road to Waiwatu and Waisa Crossing; and Savu Road to Muaniweni flats near Shat-nikatan Primary School

It said in Navua, the roads were now restricted to Four-Wheel-Drive vehicles at Vunaniu, Waiyanitu and Namaqumaqua.

Nabukavesi Road in Navua is closed to all traffic.

Nabukavesi Road in Navua is closed to all traffic. Photo: Supplied/Fiji NDMO