Fresh floods in Fiji as heavy rain falls again

Rain-soaked Fiji faces at least three more days of storms after its worst flooding in a generation killed nine people, forced thousands to flee swamped homes and stranded foreign tourists, officials said Wednesday.
Tourists in dozens of resorts on the western edge of the South Pacific nation were warned to stay inside, and at least one major airline scheduled an extra flight to get people out.
A woman who jumped into a swollen river to escape a landslide was the ninth victim of the rain and floods, police inspector Erami Raibe said.
"Stay where you are, and take extra care. That's what we're telling everyone," said Patiliai Dobui, the head of Fiji's Disaster Management Office.
Meteorological Service director Rajendra Prasad said gale force winds will batter the main islands and coastal seas later Wednesday, with fresh active rain bands expected across the main island of Viti Levu, then spreading across the entire country.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime rainfall situation," Prasad told The Associated Press.
In the town of Monasavu on Viti Levu, more than 41 inches (1,044 millimeters) of rain had fallen in the past five days, he said.
In the international tourism center of Nadi, 38 inches (950 millimeters) have been recorded, flooding shops. Many likely will be forced out of business, local officials said.
A state of emergency continued in force in western Viti Levu, where the tourism industry is based. Australia's national carrier Qantas on Wednesday scheduled a special flight to airlift stranded tourists from Nadi to Sydney, and said it would continue to monitor the situation should further flights be needed.
Disaster Management Office spokesman Isireli Narawa said nearly 9,000 residents were now in shelters, with thousands of homes submerged by brown floodwaters, bridges washed out and many roads cut off by water and mud.
Electricity, telephone and water services "are all badly affected," he said.
The banks of two rivers near the town of Labasa were breached Tuesday night, submerging houses in low-lying parts of the town and forcing hundreds to flee to emergency shelters, police spokesman Atunaisa Sokomuri said.
"Both rivers are still in flood and we fear another heavy downpour will again flood the town," he told the AP.
Prasad said heavy rain, thunderstorms and strong wind warnings remain in place for much of the country for the next three days. Some hard-hit centers may have a brief respite Friday, with the deluge expected to resume on Saturday.
The current wet spell was not expected to break until early next week, he said.
The United States announced $50,000 in flood relief, adding to similar pledges from China, Tonga, Australia and New Zealand. The new aid pledges total about $360,000.

Updated : 2021-01-28 22:29 GMT+08:00