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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 15) - The region's big brothers have stepped in to help ordinary Fijians affected by the floods in the Northern and Western divisions.

New Zealand has given FJ$35,000 [US$20,000] and Australia FJ$58,000 [US$34,000] to the Fiji Red Cross to help rehabilitation for people affected.

In a statement, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Winston Peters said New Zealand had taken a strong stance against the interim regime but that did not stop it from helping ordinary Fijians in a time of need.

"Several hundred people have been evacuated because of the floods, many of them are from squatter settlements, are vulnerable and need immediate assistance," Peters said.

The Australian High Commission yesterday said the money was to replenish the Fiji Red Cross stock of relief supplies. "The funds will be used to assist Fiji Red Cross supply tarpaulins, cooking sets, blankets, water containers and humanitarian packs containing essential items and clothing to people affected by the recent floods." The high commission said Australia and the Fiji Red Cross had a long tradition of partnership. "They have worked together to assist Fiji families in times of natural disaster, including through Cyclone Ami in 2003 and the floods of 2004."

Relief assistance to families affected by the flood in the Northern Division have been supplied by the Red Cross.

Labasa Red Cross coordinator Mr. Victor Kissun said the delivery of the assistance was only put on hold because there was shortage of supply.

"That was why we had not delivered relief assistance to certain villages ... because there was not enough supply. In one case, we had to visit 50 families in one village but because we only had 30 packs to hand out, we postponed the trip because it will not be fair for the other 20 families."

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