Fiji on its own in flood disaster

Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific editor
Article from: The Australian
THE military-led Fiji Government is struggling to respond to the nation’s worst floods in 50 years, without the logistics support that Australia and New Zealand usually provide to their island neighbours.

Most business and road travel have virtually ground to a halt in the tourist-focused west of the main island, Viti Levu, and in the sugar-industry areas in the north, where only the tops of the parking meters can be seen of the main street in Ba.

Metereologists are forecasting that a further heavy storm will sweep through today, after five days of torrential rain and floods that have left at least 11 people dead.

The floods are compounding the country’s political and economic disasters. Relations between Suva, Canberra and Wellington have all but collapsed, with Australia and New Zealand blaming Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama for reneging on a promise to hold elections, while he has accused them of working to restore the government he led a coup to remove.

Three weeks ago, Suva expelled New Zealand’s acting high commissioner, Caroline McDonald. Fiji’s Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said New Zealand diplomats were “actively engaging with those who are opposed to the Government” and “creating disquiet within the population”.

The bitter stand-off between the governments is set to take centre-stage at the annual summit of leaders, including Kevin Rudd, of the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on January 27.

Unless Commodore Bainimarama reverts to his former pledge to hold elections, Fiji may become the first country to be ejected from the forum that it helped to found.

The executive director of the Australia Fiji Business Council, Frank Yourn, said that in the past an especially valuable form of assistance from Australia during natural disasters had been through deploying military helicopters to deliver aid to cut-off communities.

Today, this was all but impossible, Mr Yourn said, since Commodore Bainimarama would be concerned that such troops might target him.

Fiji’s ruling army has not so far been very visible in relief efforts, perhaps because of a lack of suitable transport, positioning it, in terms of military responses to recent regional disasters, between the ubiquity of China’s People’s Liberation Army after the Sichuan earthquake and the neglect of Burma’s military after Cyclone Nargis.

In Fiji, thousands of refugees, abandoning their homes, have struggled through the floods to reach church halls and schools, but little aid has reached them.

Bob Lyon, the best-known Australian businessman in Fiji, where he moved after a dozen years heading ANZ Bank’s Pacific operations, said the Denarau area south of Nadi, where he lives, is effectively cut off. As well as days of downpour, the area has been hit by three super-king tides in a row.

“I’ve been through cyclones and floods around the region, but never seen anything like this,” Mr Lyon said yesterday.

Fiji’s infrastructure was already shaky when the floods hit, having received little maintenance since the coup in December 2006 that installed Commodore Bainimarama.

The bridge at Sigatoka on the south of Viti Levu, which carried services including sewers and water across a major river, has been swept away. The bridge carrying traffic into Nadi town, hub of the tourism industry in the west, has been badly weakened.

The police have imposed a 6pm-to-6am curfew in the west. But looters are breaking into stores as soon as the police cease patrolling at 6am.

Air Pacific chief executive John Campbell said that, despite roads being cut, airport operations had not been affected in Nadi as the tarmac and runways were not flood-prone and were well-drained.

Qantas flew an extra flight to and from Nadi yesterday, bringing back most of the Australians who wished to cut their holidays short but who had been unable to find places on fully booked flights. Mr Campbell said: “We are not aware of any tourists stranded in resorts around Fiji.”

Suva’s initial estimate of the damage was $20 million. But this was “way underestimated”, said Mr Lyon, who was recently appointed chairman of Fintel, the country’s major provider of telecommunications logistics.

The Australian Government has so far pledged $150,000 in aid via the Red Cross – which has little visibility in the worst-hit west and north – and the disaster management office. New Zealand is giving $NZ100,000 ($81,900), all to the Red Cross, and China $US50,000 ($74,000) direct to the Fiji Government.

Mr Lyon said residents of the Denarau development had donated $NZ50,000 to the relief effort. But one store-owner in Nadi has written off $250,000 worth of goods, indicating the extent of the damage.

Mr Yourn said he expected the Australian donation to be just a starting point as the damage was assessed. “I’d be astonished if it stopped at that.”

Satish Chand, a leading Pacific expert at the Australian National University, said yesterday: “Fiji is stepping into a nightmare – a natural disaster alongside a political disaster.” The result would be economic meltdown, he said, with the poorest worst-hit.


The interim regime have access to SUVs and could’ve commandeered the ailing Presidents and other available Hummers, they’re very adept at commandeering anything that’s not tied down so there was no excuse, except complete ignorance and incompetence once again.

A scenario that repeats itself over and over again, without anything being resolved.


15 Responses to “Fiji on its own in flood disaster”

  1. Mark Manning Says:

    It’s amazing , I said at the beginning of this coup , that perhaps events will unfold down the track , that will eventually return Fiji to a more vibrant Democratically Elected Government !
    And this it seems , is Fiji’s destiny now .

  2. Mark Manning Says:

    A container load of sasa brooms is being sent to the Fiji Military as we speak .
    It was noted today that Frank and Co. will have to restart the clean up campaign for real .

  3. Mark Manning Says:

  4. OjO Says:

    Quote for the Day:

    A wise man learns by the mistakes of others,
    a fool by his own.

    Latin Proverb

  5. Keep The Faith Says:

    Yep. Frank is learning the hard way about what it means to be part of an international community that has “standard rules of procedure”. First and foremost of which is a democratically elected parliament.

    If he stands down today everything will change. Having samosa’s and the tete-a-tete morning tea with only 5K to show for it is the clearest of indicators that he wasn’t and never will be worthy of carrying the mantle of Prime Minister.

  6. Jose Says:

    Bainimarama and his soldiers wanted a clean up campaign in Fiji when there was none needed. Now he’s got one. Mark Manning’s container of sasa broom is a great start. Any other volunteers to move Fiji forward?

  7. Lawcast Says: is asking for donations. Can someoneone throw some light on this fundraising?

    I am assuming this is our defacto sister org. that is doing this?

    Anyway…IG being unrepresented has felt the weight of the parties and cocktails around their girth…so responding quickly to disasters is an interference in their lush and posh daily lives.

  8. Mark Manning Says:

    I get really annoyed at this silly man who i used to think was a good bloke !
    Why doesn’t he just stay in India but send the $2,000,000 he has stolen from the Poor in Fiji ?

  9. Mark Manning Says:

    After the arrival of the sasa brooms , I will bring my Volkswagen to Fiji and build a road around the main Island in order that Frank and Co. may continue their cleaning up campaign , unabated .
    The road is to be built to facilitate Frank and Co.’s task of taking the Country forward .
    I am concerned however , that we might end up back where we started from !

  10. tagata Whehua Says:

    I was reading through the ig-fiji web site and they were critical about SV blogers blaming the IG for the disaster in Fiji.
    OK if that bastard the IG-FIJI web administrator ever read my post which I would like to remind him who chooses the timing for Vore and his co thugs to carry out the coup on Dec the 5th.Its only him and him alone to be blamed.Before Vore picked his time to carry out the coup and even before Vores fathers sperm enter Vores mothers womb for Vore
    to form as a human being God has picked this period for the disaster to hit Fiji but the only diffrence here is that God see beyond today, tomorrow and so on while that egg Vore cant even see beyond his nose.
    I was wondering if someone to like nosdrudumus to tell the pig that there will be a big disaster coming before Vore took over the goverment on Dec the 5th I still reckon that this thick head will still carry out the coup and blame his soresore for giving him wrong decision.Na luvenu ulukau ga na ulukau.Thanks

  11. Kai Solomone Says:

    Australia can help with the flood damage in Fiji just like they did after
    cyclone Zoe in late 2002 when it wrecked Tikopia and Anuta. And
    then there was the tsunami in the Western Solomons in 2007 when
    Australia gave a lot of help. The quickest help they gave to the Solomons came from soldiers in airforce planes. They flew in
    everythings needed to stop sickness from spreading. And Australian
    NGOs also gave lots of help and got money from the Australian

    But I think our military dictator will not allow the Australians in
    because he thinks they will send planes full of soldiers to take over
    the country, just like he did. He should understand that democratic
    governments care about the people more than he does.

  12. Fiji Democracy Now Says:

    Afraid that if foreign troops were to deliver badly needed emergency aid to our stricken nation they might target him, our dictator is not going to request help from Australia and New Zealand.

    Hey Frank, who needs to target you when you have already shot ourself in the foot?

    Here at FDN our worry is that if the Aussies are not permitted to use their air force to fly in bulk supplies of water purifiers and preventative medicines, then thousands of people are at risk to diseases like cholera.

    If the worst happens and kids start dying, the blame will lie fairly and squarely with our stupid, arrogant dictator!

  13. laisa kaukiono Says:

    @ Lawcast here read this

    January 8, 2009 by solivakasama
    SOLIVAKASAMA would like to state that we are no longer associated with as the call for donations is not something we condone, especially as there is no valid reason given for it

    For as long as this site SOLIVAKASAMA has been in existence we have not asked for donations as we are here specifically to exchange ideas about how we can resolve the issue of coups that continually disrupt the Nation of Fiji and how to stop this from ever occurring again.

    We welcome all ideas and would like you all to post what you here or see that is obviously as illegal as Voreqe Bainimaras treasonous coup to expose them for what they really are, a bunch of losers who have hijacked our civil rights to live under democracy.

    For most of us this is the only way we can express our antipathy and our views for the illegal regime to be aware that we are totally against them and their usurpationof a democratically elected government. We cannot allow the militarisation of Fiji by a group of lowbrow primitives who continually deprive us of our rights.

    If you’d like to make a donation or would like to find out how to please contact Fiji Red Cross Society:

    22 Gorrie Street, Suva, Fiji or

    GPO BOX 569, Suva, Fiji or

    Tel: (679) 331 4133
    Fax: (679) 330 3818
    Telex: 2279 Attn: Red Cross (Public facility)
    Telegram: REDCROSS SUVA

  14. Ratu Sai Says:

    Att: Flood Victims Appeal.

    To all those who live in the greater Auckland area NZ collecting donations in terms of clothing (including sheets, towels etc) & dried food (canned or cereals) is being sort your generosity is very much appreciated.

    The nearest center is Mega Mitre 10 in Lincoln Road Henderson.

    Container leaves on Thursday 22/01/09.


  15. vuki Says:

    Vinaka LK for putting up the Fiji Red Cross society address, those of you that want to help, please send at least $25.00 to the Fiji Red Cross society and ask them, to use it in their work to help Fiji’s flood victims etc.
    You can trust the Fiji red cross society to use the fund toward the flood victim.
    However, do not send your money to the Illegal military regime since they will use the money first to help the military.
    To tell you the truth there is no money in the illegal regime to be used to help the flood victims.

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