Fiji’s provident fund frees up $5.3m for natural disaster assistance

A spate of tropical cyclones has hit Fiji and other Pacific Islands in the past few months, causing widespread damage and flooding in low-lying areas. Image: Dept of Information/Wansolwara

By Wansolwara News staff

The Fiji National Provident Fund has released $5.33 million in flood assistance funds to 6351 members in the aftermath of two recently devastating cyclones that passed through the Fiji islands group.

Tropical Cyclone Josie and TC Keni brought torrential rain and strong winds, causing massive flooding in most parts of the Western Division and other low-lying areas around the country.

The FNPF had stepped in to offer affected members some relief through its natural disaster assistance initiative.

In a statement, FNPF chief executive officer Jaoji Koroi said inspection of the worst affected areas had been completed.

He said inspection teams distributed 13,646 forms so far.

“We’ve shifted our focus to the processing of applications because most of the areas that were identified have been covered by our inspection teams,” he said.

-Partners-

“The teams have been conducting follow up visits since Tuesday to members who had missed out during the initial inspection in their respective areas.

“We continue to receive queries from members and we’ve taken note of the genuine cases while at the same time advising those who were not affected that this assistance is not for them.”

Koroi said FNPF assistance would also be extended to Kadavu next week, adding two teams would be in Vunisea, which had been identified as the worst affected area on the island.

“We encourage affected members in Kadavu to ensure that they are ready with all their requirements and provide these to our teams when they are there,” Koroi said.

The fund has been liaising with the Divisional Commissioners during the natural disaster response phase and continues to work closely with them as it provides the relevant assistance to its members living in the affected areas.

“Members are reminded again that the fund is a retirement savings scheme and withdrawals ultimately reduces their savings,” Koroi said.

Fiji military clear debris and fallen trees at Vunisea Government Station, Kadavu. Image: Dept of Information/Wansolwara

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘We’re stuck in the river – please come quickly’ cry before being swept away

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: ‘We’re stuck in the river – please come quickly’ cry before being swept away

Tragically drowned … Sheenal Mudliar , pictured with her surviving husband Sandeep Mudliar. Image: The Fiji Times

By Felix Chaudhary in Lautoka

“We’re stuck in the river, please come quickly.”

These were the last words spoken by a distraught daughter to her father-in-law as floods engulfed the vehicle she was travelling in.

Sheenal Mudliar, 25, and her father, Veer Goundar, had left Damodran Mudliar’s Uciwai home in Nadi about 4.30am on Sunday for Nadi International Airport to pick up her younger brother who was arriving from New Zealand.

About 15 minutes later she was calling for help.

“The rain was pouring and the wind was also quite strong, and when I got to the Uciwai Bridge at about 5.10am, I couldn’t see anything,” the distraught canegrower said.

“My daughter-in-law’s voice kept going round and round in my head and I got out of my car with a friend and we crossed to the bridge to try and look for them.”

-Partners-

Mudliar said the current was strong which made the search difficult.

‘We kept looking’
“We kept looking for about half-an-hour and when the water level went down a little bit, I drove to Nawai Police Post and reported the matter.”

Sheenal’s husband, Sandeep, was too grief-stricken to speak about the tragedy.

A search party organised by the family with the assistance of nearby villagers recovered Mudliar’s body at 9.30am on Sunday and Goundar was found about 4.30pm the same day.

Mudliar said the family was awaiting police to complete post-mortem examinations before making funeral arrangements.

Evacuation centres not ready
Evacuation centres were unprepared for the flooding and responses were slow.

No water, no food and no assistance for infants, young children and the elderly was the scene at St Andrews Primary School, Nadi, yesterday.

More than 500 people sought shelter there early Sunday morning after the Nawaka and Namotomoto rivers broke their banks.

Between the hours of 5am to 8am, residents of Nawaka Village and Nawajikuma and Nawaka tramline settlements waded through waist deep fast-flowing floodwater to seek shelter at St Andrews.

However, when they got to the school, the gates were locked.

The evacuees said they had no option but to climb over and enter the school.

“They had nowhere else to go and they only know St Andrews, it’s a safe place for them,” said Litia Taylor, a Nawaka resident and community liaison.

Evacuees reduced
When The Fiji Times arrived at the school yesterday morning, the number of evacuees had been reduced to 275.

“When evacuees arrived here, the school had not been informed that it was to open as an evacuation centre.

“We had people sitting in the veranda, many of them were shivering because they were wet from the floodwaters and we had mothers with young children who had no warm clothes or food.

“The classrooms were opened up about 11am.

“I have assisted government teams that visit St Andrews during past disasters and this has got to be the worst situation we have ever faced.

“There was no drinking water and whatever was coming out of the taps was brown and dirty.

“What was very disappointing is that no one from the District Officer Nadi’s office has visited the school to see what the needs are.”

When contacted yesterday morning, acting DO Nadi Faiyaz Ali said he was in Nausori and was making his way to Nadi.

Ali said his team was on the ground and conducting assessments of all evacuation centres in Nadi.

‘Worse than 2009 floods’
Local Government Minister Parveen Kumar described the crisis as worse than the 2009 floods, reports The Fiji Times‘ Shayal Devi.

He said this after surveying Ba’s central business district and residential areas that had been hit by floods from Tropical Cyclone Josie.

He provided meals and rations as part of immediate relief assistance.

“I can say without any hesitation that this is worse than 2009,” Kumar said.

“Every household has the same story in a sense that within a few minutes, the water came in and they were not able to save anything.”

Lautoka-based Felix Chaudhary is a senior journalist with The Fiji Times.

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‘Scary’ floodwaters engulf homes in western Fiji as 4 die over Easter

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: ‘Scary’ floodwaters engulf homes in western Fiji as 4 die over Easter

A vehicle is swept away into a drain by strong currents at Waimalika in Sabeto, Nadi, in western Fiji yesterday. Image: Baljeet Singh/The Fiji Times

By Felix Chaudhary in Lautoka

“It was scary, we’ve never seen anything like it.”

That’s how a Natabua, Lautoka, man described the experience residents had as they fled to higher ground early yesterday after “raging floodwaters” engulfed their homes.

Tropical Cyclone Josie never made landfall but the storm dumped a lethal amount of rainfall over Easter weekend that resulted in four confirmed deaths and one missing person’s report.

As life-threatening floodwaters continued to rise late yesterday in at least two towns in the Western Division, the National Disaster Management Office confirmed that 18 evacuation centres had been activated in Nadi, Lautoka and Nadroga.

Late yesterday the police also advised people living in low-lying areas and near waterways to move to higher ground.

Punishing and unrelenting overnight rain drenched the entire Western Division, flooding many homes, sweeping away cars, disrupting flights, damaging crops, and forcing the closure of many roads.

-Partners-

The first reported tragedy was that of Sheenal Mudliar, 25, and her father Veer Gounder, 55.

They were travelling in a vehicle that was swept off a bridge at Uciwai on the outskirts of Nadi yesterday morning.

Police recover bodies
Police managed to recover both bodies yesterday.

In Ba, Saroj Lata, 50, of Vatulaulau, reportedly lost her life while attempting to flee floodwaters that had engulfed her home. The body of a 55-year-old male was also recovered in Lautoka.

In Nadi, 21-year-old hotel worker Ilaisa Nabou went missing while attempting to cross a waterway in Sabeto.

Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon the Navua River also broke its banks.

In Lautoka, Sekiva Knight said the homes located on the corner of the Queens and Natabua roads were almost completely engulfed by floodwater.

“That place usually floods on the road and in their compounds,” he said.

“This is the first time that the floodwaters covered their homes with up to almost 2m of water.

Water to ceiling
“Some of the houses had water almost up to the ceiling.

“People were awoken by the floods at about 5am and they just got up, grabbed their loved ones and ran.

“They had no time to collect any belongings or valuables, they even left their cars behind.”

Knight said a Chinese family was trapped inside their home and were unable to leave because of the strength of the current.

He said military officers rescued the family about 7am.

Also in Lautoka, residents of Qaliwalu settlement were forced to flee their homes at about 4am after the Saru river burst its banks.

Ravindra Lal, a resident, helped evacuate three families and moved them to higher ground.

“This settlement always floods but this time the flood was different,” he said.

“It came in so fast and the current was so strong. They have lost everything.”

Resurrection services
Serafina Silaitoga reports from Labasa that hundreds of Fijians braved the rainy and cold weather condition to celebrate Christian resurrection church services in the North over Easter weekend.

Believers of the Nasea Methodist Church Sunday School programme that included primary and secondary school students organised a weekend camp aimed at enhancing their spiritual growth.

Catholics travelled from around the northern island of Vanua Levu to be part of the resurrection mass on Saturday night in Labasa, many sitting bravely in partially wet clothes during the service.

Felix Chaudhary is a senior Fiji Times journalist.

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