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Damaged and displaced after Fiji cyclone

ABC RADIO AUSTRALIA: Pacific BeatUpdated December 15, 2009 09:16:16

Tropical Cyclone Mick is about to leave the Fiji group and appears to be tracking towards Tonga's main island of Tongatapu, Ha'apai and the Eua group. After reportedly damaging houses and battering Fiji's main island of Viti Levu, Cyclone Mick has moved off the coast and is now 450 kilometres north-northwest of Tongatapu.

The Director of Tongan Meteorological Service told us earlier that since leaving Fiji, Cyclone Mick has decreased in strength to a category one cyclone. But first, for an update of the damage done in Fiji, we spoke to Vuli Gauna, disaster manager with Fiji's Red Cross.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts.
Speaker: Vuli Gauna, disaster manager with Fiji's Red Cross

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GAUNA: At the moment there are assessment teams out in the field, that includes Red Cross officials and other representatives of this like. And the interim reports that are coming in is mostly due to infrastructure damage in terms of roads, water supply and power lines have been also affected. With regards to the immediate effects on households there have been reports of about 40 to 50 houses that have been destroyed, particularly in the western region. This is the area covering the north and north-west of Viti Levu island, including the surrounding islands in the south.

COUTTS: Now it's also the area that experienced horrible flooding earlier in the year, are those areas included in these parts now that have been flooded by Cyclone Mick?

GAUNA: Yes the floods that we had in January affected three immediate parts of the western division of Fiji, which included Ba, which is located just on the north west of Viti Levu island, and that's also one of the towns that we're receiving reports from them have had extensive damage to households.

COUTTS: In Ba in particular?

GAUNA: In Ba in particular.

COUTTS: And how many households do you know at this stage have been damaged by Cyclone Mick?

GAUNA: Approximately 40 to 50 houses in the whole area of the western division of Fiji.

COUTTS: And have they been evacuated?

GAUNA: There are several evacuation centres that have been opened from yesterday according to our reports here, and people that are occupying these evacuation centres are not necessarily just the ones who have lost their houses, but it included also people who have been stranded, and also those who have left their homes because of further flood pressure.

COUTTS: How many people have you got in the evacuation centres now?

GAUNA: There is an approximate estimate of people who have been affected directly, particularly mostly in the northern division, also about two-thousand people.

COUTTS: And they're all in evacuation centres now?

GAUNA: Most of them are.

COUTTS: So how many centres did you say you've got open, only two or three?

GAUNA: No, no the evacuation centres are open in many parts of the west, the last figure is between, we received was nearly 100 evacuation centres that were opened yesterday, which included the west, the central and the north. So some of the centres are still being occupied as we speak.

COUTTS: How long do you expect these people and families will remain in the evacuation centres?

GAUNA: There's no approximate estimate given to that, the focus is at the moment to restore essential infrastructure, essential utilities including water and electricity, and the rehabilitation of those who have been directly affected we hope will come after that. But the evacuation centres are being continued as we speak, these are being conducted by the Red Cross and other additional aid partners.

COUTTS: Now you mentioned earlier that some people, including these people in the evacuation centres were some that were stranded. Were they tourists that got cut off by the floods from their various resorts?

GAUNA: There have been many reports also of tourists who have been stranded in hotels, but as I'm mentioning stranded people I'm specifically talking about Fiji citizens and residents within the flood-affected areas within the northern and the central division of Fiji.

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