18 Dec 2012

River bursts banks in Fiji following cyclone

7:18 pm on 18 December 2012

One of Fiji's largest rivers has burst its banks in the wake of Cyclone Evan, and is flooding nearby low lying areas.

The eye of the cyclone tore through the north and western parts of Fiji on Monday, bringing hurricane force winds and heavy rain.

Authorities say the Rewa river on the main island of Viti Levu is at a critical level, and are asking residents to move to higher ground.

Fiji's interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama is inspecting the damage as are officials and the Red Cross.

Locals report that power lines are down, trees are destroyed, houses have no roofs and there is no electricity.

About 8,000 people are holed up in evacuation centres across Fiji, as authorities inspect the scale of the disaster and tally how many homes have been ruined.

Its still not clear how many homes have been destroyed, and how many families will have to stay in the centres again tonight.

The Disaster Management Centre in Fiji has people out in choppers and others driving by road, assessing the worst hit areas.

Its director, Manasa Tagicakibausays the communication network has been affected, and it has been hard to keep in contact.

But he says there are initial reports of damage to the water supply and structures and broken power lines.

He says people have suffered minor injuries, but there are no reports of serious causalities or fatalities so far.

The Red Cross said crews were sent home because it was too dangerous to work while wind speeds were more than 200km per hour.

The Fiji Times reported police were restricting the movement of people in and out of main towns and cities to ensure public safety.

The cyclone is about 250km south-west of Viti Levu and heading south.

Fiji MetService duty forecaster Terry Ataiofo said Evan was west south west of Kadavu, an island to the south of the Fiji group, early on Tuesday morning.

The cyclone is expected to weaken as it moves further south.

A correspondent told Morning Report that although it has stopped raining near the coast, it is still raining heavily in the highlands, causing rivers to swell to critical levels.

A bulk carrier dragged its anchor on Monday and was pushed onto the reef in Suva harbour.

The Fiji Times reported the Starford is believed to be carrying equipment for a Chinese firm constructing a highway.

Flights to resume

Air New Zealand flights in and out of Fiji will resume on Tuesday.

At the height of Cyclone Evan on Monday, the airline cancelled a flight leaving Auckland for Nadi.

That flight will now leave at 12.30pm on Tuesday while the day's other scheduled flight to Fiji has been pushed back to early afternoon.

The first of two Air New Zealand flights out of Fiji is scheduled to leave at 4.30pm as scheduled.