26 Jan 2012

Family confirmed dead in Fiji landslide

9:51 pm on 26 January 2012

A couple and their two young children are confirmed to have died in a landslide in flood-stricken Fiji.

Their deaths bring to six the number killed in flooding and landslides in the west of the main island Viti Levu.

Police have confirmed that the couple, in their 30s, and their their two daughters, aged three and one, were in a house in the Ba district of north western Vita Levu, the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reports.

Earlier in the week a man died in Labasa and another died in Ba.

Parts of Nadi, Ba, and Rakiraki were on Thursday declared natural disaster zones.

The permanent secretary of information, Sharon Smith-Johns, says the military, police and personnel from non-government organisations and the Red Cross are heading to the affected areas.

Ms Smith-Johns says 3400 people are in evacuation centres and more than 100 homes may have been destroyed by the floods.

She says disaster relief teams expect the cleanup to take several weeks, with access a challenge with flood waters cutting off some roads and bridges.

Remoteness an obstacle

A disaster response advisor for the United Nations, Peter Muller, says attempts to evaluate damage from the floods are being hampered by the remoteness of some communities and bridges which have been washed away by swollen rivers.

Mr Muller says the rains have stopped for the time being and floodwaters are receding but the respite may be short lived with the rain set to return within 24 hours.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says New Zealand will give $350,000 to to the Fiji Red Cross and other agencies to assist efforts in the aftermath of the flooding.

Ms Smith-Johns says the United States has also pledged $US50,000 through the Red Cross.

Disease, ruined crops concerning

The Red Cross in Fiji is concerned about the potential spread of disease and damage to crops as a result of the flooding.

Acting director Christopher Ho says the aid money is much needed.

He says staff are doing assessments as well as providing initial relief in the form of clothing, cooking utensils and first aid treatment.

Mr Ho says many crops are under water.