Red Cross ready to respond as flash floods strand thousands in Fiji

Published: 5 April 2016 10:12 CET

By Corinne Ambler, IFRC

Volunteers and staff from Fiji Red Cross Society are on high alert as heavy rain and flooding affects parts of the country already struggling to recover from Tropical Cyclone Winston.

About 80 volunteers are on standby in the north and west of the main island of Viti Levu, which has been battered by wind and rain for two days. The towns of Nadi and Rakiraki have been without power for two days and are cut off by floodwater, as are many remote villages. More than 1,000 people are sheltering in 69 evacuation centres in the Western and Central divisions.

Fiji Red Cross health coordinator Marica Kepa says 24 volunteers are waiting at the Red Cross Rakiraki branch office for roads to reopen.

“They are very keen to get out and help. As soon as there is road access we will be going house to house in the highest-need villages. We hope to cover more than 100 villages when the weather clears.” said Ms. Kepa. “We will have one team working from the middle of the island up, and another working from the top of the island down, so we can avoid missing anyone. They’ll be distributing water purification tablets, jerry cans, tarpaulins, shelter toolkits and cooking sets.”

Flooding can contaminate water sources and provide a breeding ground for mosquitos. Preventing illness and curbing the spread of disease will be vital. Fiji Red Cross is reminding the public to boil all drinking water, wash all raw food in clean water, wash hands with soap after going to the toilet and before eating, and to practice good hygiene at all social gatherings. People are also being warned to stay out of flooded waterways, to avoid the risk of water-borne diseases, and listen to the radio for the latest weather updates and safety messages.

In Nadi and Lautoka towns, Red Cross volunteers are also waiting to reach some remote areas. “We have told all our western branches to be on alert and take precautions. As soon as the situation is safe, we will get out and assess the damage,” coordinator of the Fiji Red Cross western division service centre Mohammed Hafiz says. “But it could be Friday, or at worst, Saturday, before this will be possible.” 

Two tropical depressions are currently sitting to the west of Fiji and the first is expected to bring heavy rain and wind to most of the country from Tuesday afternoon.

Under its emergency response operation to support families affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston, which struck the Pacific nation on February 20th, Fiji Red Cross is continuing to distribute emergency aid and supplies to families in areas that have not been affected by the floods.