Rabi landslide? Not a big problem, horseback and walking the answer

Riding on horseback is the main way to get around Rabi Island after the landslide blocked the road … or just walk. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

By Hele Ikimotu on Rabi, Fiji

The rebuilding of a road on Fiji’s northern Rabi Island is currently in the works.

Fiji’s most recent natural disaster, Tropical Cyclone Keni, destroyed many parts of the country’s main towns.

One of Fiji’s outer islands, Rabi, was also affected by the cyclone.

Although the cyclone did not pass through the 66 sq km island in the Vanua Levu group, heavy rain and wind caused the landslide, blocking a road which connects the main village of Tabwewa to the rest of the island.

The landslide has meant that it is unsafe for locals to use the road. They must either walk around the rubble – or ride a horse.

This is not the first time a landslide has happened in Rabi due to the impacts of harsh weather.

-Partners-

Janet Tawaketini, whose last time on Rabi was in 1995, is visiting the island and was shocked to see the remnants of a previous landslide, also in Tabwewa.

“That’s where my great grandparents’ graves were. Their grave and their bones are literally gone,” she said.

A building company from Savusavu has been sent over to Rabi to fix the most recent landslide.

Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom are in Fiji as part of the Pacific Media Centre’s Bearing Witness 2018 climate change project. They are collaborating with the University of the South Pacific.

The mudslide-blocked Rabi road under repair. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness A digger to the rescue on Rabi’s blocked road. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

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

Urgent call for help on Kadavu island after Keni’s Fiji devastation

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Urgent call for help on Kadavu island after Keni’s Fiji devastation

This house at Namara Village in Sanima on Kadavu had its roof blown off. Image: The Fiji Times

By Vilimaina Naqelevuki in Suva

A resort owner on Kadavu has called on Fijians to urgently assist those on the island after the devastation caused by Severe Tropical Cyclone Keni this week.

Matava Eco Resort director Mark O’Brien said children and women were the most affected and the resort was housing several families who had lost everything in the category 3 cyclone.

“We’re looking after three families at the moment, but I know Vacalea Village lost up to seven houses and most of their houses were damaged as well,” O’Brien said.

READ MORE: Wintry storm batters NZ

He said most of their yaqona plantations were damaged and they were still trying to fix significant damage to their resort.

“Mainly just all kava, all the plantation of the farms are all ruined, literally all ruined,” O’Brien said.

-Partners-

“Even here in Matava, we have 300 banana trees, there’s a big garden so it’s all gone, finished. All the banana trees and all the mango trees and avocado trees are all gone.

“A man I talked to who’s about 80 years old said it’s the worst storm he had ever seen to hit this part of Fiji.”

‘Be prepared’ plea by editor
In today’s Fiji Times editorial, editor-in-chief Fred Wesley, said the revelation that 8147 people on the island of Kadavu were in urgent need of food and water in the wake of severe TC Keni was a concern.

But he also appealed to Fiji islanders to be better prepared for the “harsh reality” of life with cyclones.

Keni swept through the [Kadavu] island, leaving in its wake a trail of destruction. It affected all 75 villages on Tuesday.

“The scenarios that have unfolded on Kadavu are not new. This is the harsh reality of life in our nation,” said Wesley.

“Cyclones are part of our lives. They have not just come out of the woodworks so to speak.

“It pays to be prepared. People of Kadavu said they prepared for the cyclone.

“The system, in the end though, was strong. Our cyclone season extends from November through to April annually.

“It is the way things are in Fiji.

“As we go about our chores today, let us remember those who are less fortunate than us.”

Vilimaina Naqelevuki is a Fiji Times reporter.

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‘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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Ardern mission for post-Gita visit to Tonga, Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Ardern mission for post-Gita visit to Tonga, Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the New Zealand government’s Pacific Mission will take place early next month and travel to Tonga, Samoa, Niue, and the Cook Islands.

“It will be an honour to have the Pacific Mission led by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and is a further sign of the importance New Zealand attaches to our Pacific neighbours,” Peters said, confirming the dates as March 4-9.

“The government carefully considered whether the Pacific Mission would impose a burden on Tonga and Samoa in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Gita.”

“However the government decided to proceed to allow the delegation to see first-hand the ongoing response. We will also discuss with the governments of Tonga and Samoa, as much as able to be learned at this point, what support is required for long-term recovery,” he said.

The Pacific Mission delegation is made up of MPs, Pasifika community leaders, and NGO representatives.

The delegation size is smaller this year with the mission changing focus because of Tropical Cyclone Gita.

“New Zealand’s close ties with Samoa and Tonga are built on a deep bilateral partnership, and a shared commitment to Pacific regionalism. Niue and Cook Islands are constitutional partners for New Zealand and we share citizenship as well as a set of mutual obligations and responsibilities,” Peters said.

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Tonga’s Parliament seeks temporary home after Gita smashed old House

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tonga’s Parliament seeks temporary home after Gita smashed old House

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

As Tonga struggles to recover from Cyclone Gita, authorities are looking for somewhere to host the next Parliamentary sessions next month.

Parliament needs a place to meet between March 1-15 so MPs can process bills and laws that are required for the government’s 2018-2019 budget.

A Parliamentary spokesperson said the Speaker’s office was working urgently to decide on a suitable venue before informing all Members of Parliament.

As Kaniva News reported yesterday, Tonga’s Parliament House, which is more than a century old, was flattened by tropical cyclone Gita.

Australia and New Zealand have already sent personnel and humanitarian supplies, including tarpaulins and water purification tablets to Tonga.

The New Zealand government had pledged $750,000 to help rescue and relief operations and an RNZAF Hercules would fly emergency relief supplies to the kingdom.

An RAAF C-17A Globemaster flew to Tonga with emergency relief supplies last night.

Tongan proposal to China
As Kaniva News reported last year, Tonga has submitted a proposal to the Chinese government to fund a new Parliament House.

The Chinese Ambassador to Tonga, Wang Baodong, was welcomed at the Legislative Assembly in June 2017.

It was not immediately clear whether Tongan and Chinese authorities have taken another look at the proposal after Parliament was levelled on Monday or not.

Cyclone Gita, a category four storm, struck Tonga’s main island Tongatapu and its nearby island ‘Eua on Monday, causing widespread damage.

Electricity lines were downed, roofs were torn off houses by the high winds and crops were destroyed.

Disaster Management Minister Poasi Tei told reporters in Nuku’alofa yesterday 119 homes were completely destroyed and 1131 with minor damages while 4500 people were at the 108 evacuation centres in Tongatapu.

Tonga Power workers have restored power in some areas in Tongatapu yesterday afternoon.

The Tonga Water Board announced that water supplies had been restored to almost all areas of Nuku’alofa.

In earlier reports, residents were finding it more difficult to cope with the aftermath because of lack of power which had also affected water supplies, communication and petrol stations.

Some people in Houmakelikao went to the Minister of Police’s residence and charged their mobile phones using electric generated from the Minster’s electric power generator.

The town of Houma in Tongatapu lost its water supply after their two-tank water supplier was destroyed by Gita.

The town’s residents took to Facebook to ask their community members overseas to help donate funding for a new water supplier.

Two deaths reported
As Kaniva News reported, two deaths have been confirmed. A 72-year-old man from Fua’amotu died at Vaiola Hospital.

Minister Poasi Tei told Kaniva News yesterday the impact of the cyclone might have contributed to the old man’s death.

RNZI quoted Lord Fusitu’a as saying an elderly woman died after her house was “completely blown away from her while she was in it.”

Police also confirmed three major injuries and 30 minor injuries on Tongatapu as a result of Gita.

Asia Pacific Report republishes some Kaniva News articles as a collaboration project.

Falling trees and downed power poles hinder Tonga’s Gita relief effort

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Falling trees and downed power poles hinder Tonga’s Gita relief effort

By Kalino Latu. editor of Kaniva News

The Tongan government’s efforts to assess the extent of destruction by Tropical Cyclone Gita have been hindered by falling trees and downed power poles.

The Minister of Disaster Management, Poasi Tei, said teams of government assessors had been dispatched to villages and towns to report on damage caused by the category four cyclone.

However, they could not start their work immediately because the roads were blocked by debris and downed powerlines.

VIDEO: ‘This is pretty horrific’ – Barbara Dreaver describes Cyclone Gita as her most frightening cyclone experience in 30 years

It is expected the assessment would be completed by tomorrow, Tei told Kaniva News.

New Zealand and Australia have sent two aircraft carrying aid to Tonga.

Tei said he was thankful for the New Zealand and Australia’s assistance so far.

Two of the New Zealand Pasifika media contingent in Tonga at work – John Pulu of Tagata Pasifika and TV1 News Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver. Image: John Pulu/Facebook

Meanwhile, a 72-year-old man from Fua’amotu died suddenly in hospital while three people were seriously injured and 30 were admitted to hospital with minor injuries, Tei said.

Police offices flooded
Police Minister Māteni Tapueluelu said his ministerial office and some other police offices had been flooded.

He said many school buildings had had their roofs ripped off when Cyclone Gita struck.

Tapueluelu said this afternoon attempts to get information from ‘Eua in the wake of Gita had failed because telephones and the internet were down.

Another aircraft from New Zealand will fly to Tonga to conduct a surveillance survey in ‘Eua.

He said police were trying to make contact with the island from Nakolo in Hahake because of their closeness but he has yet to be updated in it.

It has been estimated about 5700 people sought shelter in evacuation centres during the cyclone, and it is expected these numbers would increase substantially  last night.

About 80,000 people in Tonga, including 32,000 children, were at risk from Cyclone Gita, Unicef said.

In Fiji, The Fiji Times reports Gita was expected to be located about 140 km west-southwest of Ono-i-Lau, or 300km southeast of Kadavu last night.

Fiji Meteorological Services director Ravind Kumar said the storm continued to move further west heading towards New Zealand.

From New Zealand, RNZ reports Gita has been upgraded to category five, the highest possible, Fiji’s Meteorological service says. Follow RNZ’s live coverage.

A house wrecked by the fury of Cyclone Gita. Image: Patimiosi Ngungutau/Kaniva News

Tonga welcomes NZ $750,000 aid offer in wake of Gita’s destruction

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tonga welcomes NZ $750,000 aid offer in wake of Gita’s destruction

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

The Tongan government has welcomed New Zealand’s offer to donate $750,000 and personnel assistance in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Gita’s destruction.

The NZ government has a military plane with assistance ready to go once it is safe to land in Tonga.

Tonga’s Minister of Police Māteni Tapueluelu told Kaniva News in Auckland the government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had indicated yesterday before Cyclone Gita struck the kingdom last night that it stood by and was prepared.

Tapueluelu said the Tongan government was in the process of fulfilling procedural requirements before it could receive the donation and all assistance.

NZ Minister for Pacific People ‘Aupito William Sio said last night that while New Zealand was on standby mode ready to provide support to all Pacific countries affected by Cyclone Gita, “it will not respond unless requested by the affected Pacific government”.

Prime Minister Arden said the NZ government had a military plane and $750,000 ready to help cyclone-battered Tonga, Fairfax Media reported.

The NZ government had already pledged $50,000 to help but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ today a contingency fund had been signed off so there would be no “no hold up” when they knew where to use the funds.

The aftermath
Tonga’s main island Tongatapu and its island of ‘Eua were savaged by the category 4 tropical cyclone last night in what has been called the worst storm to hit the country in 60 years, with gusts of up to 278kmh.

Tongatapu and ‘Eua residents woke today to what “looks like a war zone” and are assessing the extensive damage left behind by destructive Cyclone Gita, with emergency services fearing there will be “more injuries if not deaths”.

New Zealand media said two deaths had been confirmed.

Gita brought gale-force wind gusts of up to 200km/h, record-breaking rainfall of more than 200mm in an hour, and surging tides threatening widespread floods.

Cyclone Gita’s “destructive core” battered the east coast, stripping palm trees bare, destroying businesses, churches, schools and leaving homes in ruins.

Devastating photos show buildings in Hihifo and Hahake areas of Tongatapu with roofs ripped off and homes inundated with water.

Tonga’s Parliament House was levelled and school buildings in Apifo’ou college have been ripped off.

Tropical Cyclone Gita leaves trail of destruction in Tonga

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tropical Cyclone Gita leaves trail of destruction in Tonga

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita has left a trail of destruction after hitting Tonga with 200 kph plus winds during the night.

RNZ reports that on the main island of Tongatapu in the kingdom, the category four cyclone had ripped roofs off houses, brought down trees, destroyed a Catholic church, and took the Tongan Met Office in Fua’amotu and the national radio station off line.

Roads across the island were blocked by debris and power lines were downed restricting relief efforts.

“Gita’s fury” … Today’s New Zealand Herald front page.

Last night, TV One’s Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver reported from the eye of the storm, saying: “It’s screaming like a freight train and it just keeps getting noisier and noisier”.

Speaking by telephone from her Nuku’alofa hotel room, she said the biggest danger for her were palm trees or sheet metal flying through the window.

“Compared to storms at home [in New Zealand], this just doesn’t compare. It’s like someone screaming out of control, the palm trees are bent over sideways, there’s a lot of variables in play. You’re completely at its mercy.”

Retired Tongan Navy officer Solomone Savelio reported on Twitter today:  “Lot of trees falling over on powerline, roads, houses. Expect power to be out for days in some areas. Some places [are] flooded. Some (mostly old houses or huts) have [roofs] blown off. 2 deaths so far. Unknown injuries. Hospital request 4 blood.”

Damage in an unnamed Nuku’alofa hotel last night. Image: @SolomoneSavelio on Twitter
Tonga’s century-old Parliament destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Gita. Image: @SolomonSavelio on Twitter

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