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‘We stand ready to respond’

MELBOURNE, Australia (ABC, January 13, 2009) - Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Duncan Kerr says the Australian government has offered AU$150,000 [US$ 103,600] to emergency flood relief efforts underway in Fiji, and says Canberra will provide more help if needed.

Days of torrential rain and storms on the west coast of the island nation have killed at least six people and forced nearly 10,000 people into temporary shelters.

Hundreds of tourists have been trying to leave the country, and the government in Suva has declared a state of emergency as it battled the worst flooding in a decade.

"We stand ready to respond to any request," Mr Kerr told the Australia Network.

"In the past where Fiji has suffered in storm damage, we helped to supply food and Red Cross inventories. We understand they are substantially stocked at the moment but if there is any rundown in that area, or if there are any formal requests from the Fiji government we stand ready to offer further assistance.

Targeted help from New Zealand

New Zealand says money it has set aside to help Fiji recover from the floods will go directly to the Red Cross and not to the military government.

The country's government will provide about $US57,000 in aid.

Relations between Wellington and Suva have been strained since Commodore Frank Bainimarama's government expelled New Zealand's High Commissioner Caroline McDonald last month.

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