19 Jan 2009

Fiji flood victims prepare to return home

9:09 am on 19 January 2009

Fiji's National Disaster Management Office is aiming to have all those displaced by flooding back in their homes within a week.

It says the number of people at evacuation centres has dropped to just under 10,000 from about 12,000 at the height of the floods.

The cost of the damage is so far estimated to be $31 million and that figure is likely to rise.

National Disaster Management Office spokesperson Pajiliai Dobui said many people will spend this week assessing the damage to their homes, and cleaning them in preparation for their return.

The Red Cross said homes in the worst-hit areas will need to be thoroughly cleaned before people can move back in, because of the risk of disease.

Some 5,000 hygiene kits are to be distributed.

School buildings have been used as evacuation centres and the pressure is on to clear them ready for the school term scheduled to start in a week.

'No strings' to NZ aid

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the $600,000 aid donation to the Fiji flood relief effort is a humanitarian act with no political strings attached.

Mr McCully said New Zealanders have very close links with the people of Fiji and want to see the Government respond generously.

"If there is some sort of reciprocal goodwill from the Fiji leadership that's a good thing, but that's not the purpose for which we've made our committment to the aid effort," he said.

Mr McCully said next week's Pacific Islands Forum will set the scene for the next move in relations between New Zealand and Fiji.