23 Feb 2016

Growing international help flowing into Fiji

4:44 pm on 23 February 2016

Relief supplies have started arriving in Fiji as the country begins the massive job of cleaning up after cyclone Winston, which has killed at least 29 people.

New Zealand aid arrives in Fiji

New Zealand aid arrives in Fiji Photo: SUPPLIED / NZDF

The most powerful storm in the country's recorded history hit Fiji's main island of Viti Levu and neighbouring smaller islands late on Saturday, destroying entire villages, flooding low-lying areas, and wiping out crops.

The death toll in Fiji from Cyclone Winston has risen to 29, and one island has been nearly flattened, the Fijian government says.

An RNZAF Hercules has arrived in Nadi with 12 tonnes of relief supplies including water ration packs and chainsaws.

Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy, the Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said defence force personnel were also helping assess the cyclone's impact.

Meanwhile, China has handed over $100,000 in emergency aid to the Fiji Red Cross in the wake of the cyclone.

Xinhua reports the charge d'affaires of China's Embassy in Suva, Gu Yu, presented the funds to the aid agency saying China sympathises with the Fijian people and will do the utmost to help them rebuild their homes.

The news agency says the Chinese embassy is getting disaster situation updates from the Fiji government, and wants to provide more aid to help with reconstruction.

The United States Agency for International development is providing an initial US$100,000 in humanitarian aid to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for critical relief supplies and basic water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance.

A USAID disaster expert is on the ground in Fiji to help the government to assess damage, identify needs, and coordinate response efforts.

The European Union has also sent an emergency disaster expert to assess the humanitarian impact of the storm and to recommend how best the EU should support relief and recovery efforts.

The Commonwealth Secretary General has expressed the body's solidarity with Fiji and has called on the Commonwealth family to provide co-ordinated support.

The ANZ Bank in Fiji has given US$ 72,000 to the Red Cross Appeal and has a customer assistance package that includes the suspension of loan repayments for 2 months.

New Zealand aid arrives in Fiji

New Zealand aid arrives in Fiji Photo: SUPPLIED / NZDF

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Follow RNZ reporter Kim Baker Wilson, who is in Fiji

Aid to reach outer islands soon

Government spokesman Ewan Perrin told Morning Report the island of Koro appeared to have taken a direct hit, with eight bodies found there yesterday.

Mr Perrin said 2000 families lived on the island "and it has been pretty much flattened. There are very few buildings left".

Two vessels carrying medical aid, food and water were expected to arrive at Koro this morning, he said.

More than 8000 people remain in hundreds of evacuation centres throughout the Fijian islands, and thousands throughout the 300 islands of the archipelago would be displaced for months, he said.

Fiji's lines company is has warned it could be up to four months before the power supply gets back to normal in some areas.

Workers from the Fiji Electricity Authority are scrambling to restore power to key areas as fast as they can.

But at the moment in the west of Viti Levu, the country's main island, only about 10 percent of properties have power.

It's hoped it can be restored in Nadi and Lautoka by this weekend.

A manager at the authority, Om Datt Sharma, said it would be be months before power was back everywhere.

"We have got all our resources targeting and being put out in the field to make sure we get power supply as quickly as possible.

"But it could take us three to four months to get the network restoration work completed," he said.

He said there is limited transmission and supply in the west because of massive damage.

"Last night we were only able to supply a handful of customers in Lautoka area and in Nadi.

"Today we might be able to supply a bit more customers... our main target is to supply power to the essential services."

Om Datt Sharma left with team

Om Datt Sharma left with team Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Radio New Zealand International reporter Alex Perrottet, who is in Nadi, said a water shortage and shelter were the most pressing concerns as Fijians started to rebuild their homes.

Water tankers were deployed during the recent droughts and people were again having to collect rain water in buckets.

"We were told that those tanks would be used and reused for emergency situations. We haven't seen or heard any word about whether they've been deployed yet," he said.

"People would be seriously after those things but they're also calling just for tarpaulins, just to be able to build some temporary shelters."

Perrottet said the effects of the cyclone further north and west in Fiji was likely to be more serious.

However, the cyclone had not dented the big-heartedness of Fijians, who were still offering hospitality to strangers.

Aid worker Alice Clements said the Fijian government was well prepared for Cyclone Winston but the scale of the destruction was breathtaking.

"Day by day we're getting more and more aerial photos and a few photos from on the ground itself which are telling us that islands such as Koro have simply been flattened," she said.

"It seems highly likely that the scale of this destruction is going to very quickly outrun even the best preparation."

Many families had lost everything in the cyclone, including their source of food, and schools and health centres had also been damaged, Ms Clements said.

Follow RNZ International reporter Alex Perrottet, who is in Fiji

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