Majority of Fji's cyclone evacuees home for Christmas

Majority of Fji's cyclone evacuees home for Christmas

Majority of Fji's cyclone evacuees home for Christmas

Updated 26 December 2012, 9:16 AEDT

Disaster management officials in Fiji say the majority of cyclone evacuees have been able to spend Christmas at their own homes.

The officials say little more than 2,500 cyclone evacuees will be spending the festive period at emergency shelters.

More than 50 emergency centres - mostly in the west - are still open, a week and a half after parts of the country were pounded by Cyclone Evan.

Fiji's Permanent Secretary of Information, Sharon Smith-Johns told Radio Australia it's been a great effort to get displaced Fijians back to their home, with the centres initially taking in about 14,000 evacuees

"We've had emergency services and everyone working over the Christmas period," she said.

"People at evacuation centres have gone without a proper Christmas and so have a lot of the workers, and we are doing our utmost to get Fiji back on its feet.

"I think it's an excellent effort to get down to 2,500 so quickly after the cyclone."

Relief efforts

The United Nations Children's Fund has also begun helping the children in need in cyclone-affected Fiji and Samoa.

UNICEF says one of the immediate challenges is to ensure there are no outbreaks of disease as a result of contaminated water.

The organisation says it will supply 5,000 doses of tetanus vaccine for Samoa.

It will also provide tens of thousands of sachets of oral rehydration salts to both countries.

UNICEF's representative Dr Isiye Ndombi is in Fiji and says there are several priorities - and challenges.

"Our lead role is in the areas of water, sanitation and nutrition of children and protecting them from harm. Luckily, the schools are closed now," he told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat.

"The immediate priorities are to ensure that these people have sufficient food, they have safe water and sanitation and they have good shelter, but also to circulate key hygiene and health messages to the population.

"Because this is a time when epidemics can spread very easily."

More than 8,000 people in Fiji and 7,000 in Samoa were forced to flee their homes in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Evan.

UNICEF says water and electricity shortages across both countries are creating a potentially dangerous situation for thousands.

Meanwhile, police in Fiji say 15 people were due in court on Friday charged with looting during Cyclone Evan.

They say 12 men and two women are accused of stealing $20,000 Fijian dollars worth of goods from a supermarket. Another man is accused of stealing $2,000 worth of liquor.

Fiji's interim government says a damage assessment team is touring the country's Northern Division to survey schools that were destroyed by the cyclone.

The Ministry of Education's permanent secretary, Dr Brij Lal, says the teams will focus primarily on structural damages to schools.

Dr Lal says all repairs will be completed before the new school year begins.

In Samoa, five people have been killed and at least 12 people are still missing after Cyclone Evan smashed into the Pacific island nation.