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By Seema Sharma

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 20) - Villagers living along the coastal areas of Saqani in Cakaudrove, on Fiji’s northern island of Vanua Levu, are battling to clear their seashores and rivers, which are covered with pumice.

This is believed to be from submarine volcanic eruptions deep in the ocean far from Fiji.

The turaga ni koro of Lakeba Village, Josefa Mataki, said the villagers saw the pumice floating in the sea near their homes on Monday last week.

He said on Tuesday morning, the pumice covered the river and villagers could not fish or travel by boats and bamboo rafts (bilibili) to their plantations.

Mataki said on Wednesday they noticed a few dead fish along the seashore and the riverbank.

He said the villagers had not been able to fish since last week and wanted the Government to help remove the pumice from the river.

Seismologist Nilesh Kumar said the eruptions were not in waters around Fiji and had traveled with the currents from out of the region.

He said no tremors were recorded in the Fiji waters in the last few days but he would get more details today.

Principal research officer for the Fisheries Department Aisake Batibasaga said samples of the sea and river waters were taken for tests. He said because of the eruption there was a possibility that the water would be polluted with toxins that may have killed the fish.

Batibasaga said the river would be cleaned up through the natural process during high tides and flooding.

He said parts of Ovalau and Wakaya also had a lot of pumice in 1998 and the ecosystem was affected temporarily.

Batibasaga said it would be an expensive exercise to clean the river manually.

He said it could take at least a month for the pumice to wash back into the sea.

September 21, 2006

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com .

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