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Relief, ‘big clean-up’ operations ‘not going to happen overnight’

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 26, 2012) – Disaster relief teams heading to flood-affected areas of Fiji to assess the damage expect the clean-up will take several weeks.

Six people died as a result of heavy flooding in parts of the Western Division, including a family of four, which was buried under a landslide near the town of Ba.

A state of natural disaster has been declared in those areas and the permanent secretary of information, Sharon Smith-Johns, says access will be a challenge with flood waters cutting off some roads and bridges.

But she says the situation is stable.

"If the weather stays clear they’ll be returning to some of the homes that have been not so badly affected. Now that the waters are subsiding we can actually get the services like telecommunications, power, and water, back connected again. But it’s not going to happen overnight, as you know this is going to be a big clean up over several weeks."

Sharon Smith-Johns says the United States has pledged 50,000 U.S. dollars through the Red Cross.

[PIR editor’s note: The New Zealand government has pledged US$286,748 to relief efforts, coordinating aid actions with neighboring Australia and France. Vodafone Fiji credited customers’ phones with $5 of talk time for those living in Nadi and out to Rakiraki. Corporate affairs representatives said that "people are not able to make calls out if they needed to make emergency calls either to relief centers, or evacuation centers, or to their loved ones, so we’ve topped up all the pre-paid mobile numbers."]

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