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Fiji govt advises against travel to islands

Published: 8:13AM Saturday March 31, 2012 Source: ONE News

Airlines have been asked not to fly additional passengers into Fiji this weekend because of concerns over more bad weather, difficulty getting from Nadi international Airport to local resorts and hotels, and local hotel room availability.

Flood waters have claimed two lives in Fiji and forced many from their homes, cancelled flights and stranded New Zealand holiday makers.

The travel request has been made by the government and by Airports Fiji Limited for the sake of safety as flooding swept through the west of the main island of Viti Levu.

Nadi Airport remains open and all outbound international flights are expected to continue to operate.

Airports Fiji Ltd CEO Tony Gollin told ONE News earlier tonight that the airport is encouraging people to get on outbound flights as it is unlikely that people coming into Fiji will be able to find accommodation.

New Zealand tourists on the holiday island of Denerau are stranded and supplies are running low at some resorts.

All Air Pacific flights to Nadi for today and tomorrow have been cancelled, however the airline's outbound flights will continue.

One Air New Zealand 747 tried to land on the main runway just after 2pm local time today but was diverted because of cross winds and headed back to Auckland, affecting hundreds of passengers. Gollin said the diversion had nothing to do with the flooding. 

Gollin said that the main the runway at Nadi's international airport was closed overnight because there was water on it and remained closed until midday today. This affected planes such as 747s that could not land on shorter runways.

He adds that the airport is now fully operational, with the main runway re-opened.

People who have been planning to travel to Fiji are advised to check with their airline.

Meanwhile, Fijian authorities have been considering imposing a state of emergency in the western division.

Reports this morning suggest the flood waters have receding in most parts in the west of the main island, Viti Levu, which have been worst affected by the heavy rain. However, river levels have been rising near capital Suva.

Ministry of Information permanent secretary Sharon Smith Johns has confirmed this afternoon that the rain has now stopped in Nadi.

The heavy rain was caused by a shallow tropical depression located west-southwest of Nadi, and is expected to last until tomorrow.

Two deaths, thousands evacuated

The Ministry of Information in Suva has confirmed two deaths directly related to the flooding.

The body of a man was retrieved from his vehicle in Nadi after it was swept away yesterday.

Another body, of a 20-year-old male, was also found yesterday from Raviravi creek in Ba.

A 57-year-old woman died in one of the evacuation centres yesterday, Fiji Village website reports. However an official said the death was due to diabetes complications.

The waters have cut off roads and Fiji's disaster management office said more than 3500 people spent the night in evacuation centres.

"The flood was rising up so we (were) afraid, so by that time everybody came here to help us and take our children out from the house," Fijian evacuee Taina Wati told ONE News.

The towns of Sigatoka, Nadi, Lautoka, Ba and Rakiraki are cut off, and around 60 evacuation centres have been set up to help residents in those towns.

The floods are said to be worse than those in January, which claimed 11 lives, and the Pacific Island nation is considering declaring a state of disaster.

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has begun assessing the damage caused by flooding.

Government officials have travelled as far as Nadi, but had to turn back as road conditions would not allow them to go any further.

They plan to set out again tomorrow.

Officials and agencies have been working 24-hour shifts to provide support to those in need.

Reports of missing

Authorities are searching for many people reported missing due to the floods.

The Fiji Times online reported earlier today that five people are missing after they were swept away by the waters in a vehicle along the Nadi Back Road.

Many people have had to be rescued, with 25 rescued in the town of Nadi last night.

Authorities said a large number of people were stranded on their roofs by the intense flooding and were asking for help from people with boats to pick up the stranded residents.

"We will stay here, we can't leave our house," evacuee Wati said.

Johns is urging the public to take head of the warnings to limit or restrict movements around flooded areas.

"It has been a area of concern that despite issuing advisory's and so forth we still see people swimming in flooded areas, wading across flooded roads," said Fiji police Ana Naisoro.

Johns said they have shut down electricity temporarily for the safety of people moving around.

Disaster Management Office spokesperson Pajiliai Dobui told Radio New Zealand the floods could be worse than those in 2009, which were the worst on record.

- With Newstalk ZB