Fiji declares a state of emergency for cyclone aid
Tuesday 16 March 2010
Fiji declared a state of emergency today and ordered troops to launch relief operations in northern regions battered by a powerful cyclone that knocked out power and forced thousands of people to flee into shelters.
Cyclone Tomas' onslaught began to weaken Tuesday, but the scope of destruction was not clear because communications were cut to the outer islands and to northern areas of Vanua Levu, the group's second-biggest island, that were hardest hit, officials said.
One death has been reported, and a nationwide curfew was still in effect.
Fiji's National Disaster Council declared a 30-day state of emergency for the country's northern and eastern divisions Tuesday, ordering troops to be deployed as soon as possible to provide relief, including food, water and basic supplies.
Packing winds of up to 130 mph (205 kph) at its center, and gusts of up to 175 mph (280 kph), Cyclone Tomas continued to blast through the northern Lau and Lomaiviti island groups and the northern coast of Vanua Levu on Tuesday, the nation's weather office said.
Matt Boterhoven, Fiji's Tropical Cyclone Center's senior forecaster, said Tomas was still a Category 4 storm, but was expected to weaken to Category 3 by late Tuesday as it moves into the open sea south of the island group.
Sea surges of up to 23 feet (7 meters) were reported in the Lau island group, which was hit head-on by the cyclone, causing major flooding, Boterhoven said, adding that the surges would take at least 36 hours to subside.
Rain had drenched northern areas with up to 14 inches (350 millimeters) over two days and was still falling.
National Disaster Management Office spokesman Anthony Blake said power, water, sewage and other services were disrupted in many northern areas, with all airstrips and airports closed and storm surges smashing into coastal villages and schools. More than 17,000 people were in 240 government shelters, he said.
Initial damage assessments will likely be made Wednesday, when airplanes are expected to survey the northern islands and Vanua Levu, Blake said.
The country's military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarara, has appealed for international assistance, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said, and the governments of New Zealand, France and Australia were trying to determine how best to help. The New Zealand air force was on standby to fly emergency supplies to Fiji and assist with aerial reconnaissance.
The capital, Suva, has been lashed by high winds and rains, and the government extended a nationwide curfew to Wednesday morning to keep people in their homes.
By Tuesday afternoon, flights had resumed into the main international airport at Nadi, on the main island of Viti Levu. There were no immediate reports of tourists being caught in the cyclone.
Late Friday, a 31-year-old woman was swept away by strong ocean currents in Vanua Levu's Cakaudrove province after she saved her two children from a storm surge, police spokeswoman Atunaisa Sokomuri said.
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 3 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 4 The most powerful passports in the world
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Nepal earthquake: How you can help victims of the Kathmandu disaster
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Photos show devastation caused by 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital in London where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
General Election 2015: The photo of a tree that proves the Tories have an image problem
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...