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Country reeling as cyclone alert issued

By Farzana Nisha/Ropate Valemei/Keresi Nauwakarawa

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, April 2, 2012) – Fiji's floods have claimed three victims and forced almost 8000 people into 99 evacuation centres as the country grapples with more heavy rain, more flooding and a potential cyclone threat.

Authorities have declared a state of natural disaster in the Western Division which was hit by fresh flooding yesterday. Three people are dead and three people are confirmed missing.

DISMAC director Pajiliai Dobui said last night they are still trying to get details of the missing people.

Fiji police told FijiLive this morning they had retrieved the body of an i-Taukei man from Nadi River late yesterday, and are awaiting identification and cause of death.

The body of a 20-year-old Fijian male was retrieved on Friday from Raviravi Creek in Ba, and an unidentified man’s body is being kept at Lautoka mortuary.

Fiji Police had confirmed yesterday the unidentified man’s body was retrieved from his vehicle after it was swept away by strong currents in Nadi Earlier, a 57-year old Lautoka woman had died at the Lomolomo evacuation centre due to diabetes complications so is not being counted as a flood-related death.

Eleven people had died when similar floods hit the Western Division in January.

Dobui said there are now 96 evacuation centres in the Western Division with 7786 evacuees due to fresh flooding.

For the Central and Eastern divisions, he said the number remains the same as this morning - 51 people and three familes in three evacuation centres.

A fresh concern is the rising water levels in the Rewa River in the Central Division.

Nausori town on the banks of the river is the country's fourth largest with a population of 47,604.

The state of emergency was announced by Permanent Secretary for Provincial Development and Natural Disaster Management, Lieutenant Colonel Inia Seruiratu this morning.

"A state of emergency has been declared for areas in the Western Division and authorities have not ruled out that a state of natural disaster will be declared.

" Lt Colonel Seruiratu said they are doing all they can to help those that need it the most.

"The fact of the matter is strong weather conditions continue.

" Seruiratu said this flood was worse than in January or the flooding in 2009.

"About twice as much water has come in half as much time," he said.

Authorities have been hampered in responding for help due to damaged roads and bridges.

The declared state of emergency zone includes areas from Rakiraki till Tavua and Ba districts namely Wailotua, Koronubu and Ravuravu and Nasolo village, Toge and Balevuto.

In Lautoka, the area is from Bareta flats to Natabua and Drasa flats till Nadi district and includes Korociriciri, Moala village, Korovuto, Nawaqa and Namaka, Sikituru right up to Votualevu and nearby areas.

In Nadroga district, the areas are from Sigatoka town and Malawai and Navosa and Nasikawa and Nawakubu.

Nadi is still cut off on the temple end of town as the Navo Bridge and its approach has been washed away, while at Yadua, Sigatoka, the Queens Highway is cut off, but temporary repairs mean emergency cases are now being allowed through, but get stuck at Navo Bridge.

Some West roads have been opened, but the majority remain closed.

This is affecting people travelling in and out of the country.

Tourists are also stranded in hotels on the Coral Coast.

Air Pacific announced three international flights for this morning to Auckland, Sydney and Brisbane, but cancelled three scheduled afternoon flights to Auckland, Melbourne and Honolulu.

An empty Air New Zealand B747 today returned to its destination after strong winds and heavy rains forced the pilot to abandon landing at Nadi International Airport.

The plane was scheduled to fly out stranded passengers and Air New Zealand said they would try again tomorrow (Monday).

All inbound flights are flying in empty on the request of the government until further notice.

All schools in the West remain closed until further notice.

The Fiji Electricity Authority annnounced today that it will ration power in the Central Division from tomorrow after a transmission tower fell and disrupted supply from the Wailoa Hydro Power Station.

Despite the bad weather Christians in the country celebrated Palm Sunday while Hindus celebrated Ram Navami or the the birth of Lord Ram, and prayed for blessings and better weather.

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