Cyclone damage in Fiji not as bad as initially feared | Pacific Beat

Cyclone damage in Fiji not as bad as initially feared

Cyclone damage in Fiji not as bad as initially feared

Updated 18 December 2012, 18:01 AEDT

The damage to Fiji caused by tropical cyclone Evan may not be as bad as first thought.

That's the initial impression of the Permanent Secretary of Information for the coup installed military government, Sharon Smith-Johns.

She accompanied interim attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Permanent Secretary of Communications, Civil Aviation and Tourism, Elizabeth Powell on a helicopter inspection of the damage earlier today.

Ms Smith-Johns says although information is still coming in, what she saw from the air indicates that Fiji may have escaped some of the worst consequences of a storm of Evan's size and strength.

Presenter:Bruce Hill

Speaker:Sharon Smith-Johns, Permanent Secretary of Information, Fiji

SMITH-JOHNS: We left Suva at about lunchtime and we've come up the Coral Coast and we've passed over all the major hotels, the Fijian, the Warwick, the Outrigger, the Intercontinental, all the way up to Nadi and had a fly-by over Nadi. Now there seems to be very little damage done to the resorts, people were swimming at the Outrigger and it looked fine there. The pools up in Nadi a little bit green from the trees being blown into them, but very little damage, in fact no structural damage as far as I could see there. The damage seems to be some of the local houses, but again there wasn't any great pockets of massive destruction anywhere, it was just sort of random, a half roof off. Considering the strength of the cyclone that's come through, as I said I've only got to Nadi so far, it's really encouraging to see that there's been minimal damage from this huge storm that passed through.
HILL: What about roads and bridges, that sort of infrastructure?
SMITH-JOHNS: We had a good look around, the river there is swollen and there's some local flooding there, but nothing bad. We had a fly-over Nadi Town and there doesn't seem to be any flooding, a bit of local flooding, but nothing out of the ordinary, business as normal really in Nadi. I'm standing at the airport now and there's people queued up for flights, we've been talking to some of the tourists about their experience. All of them have come through safely and they're on their way out now, so the airport's functioning. And it really just seems like a normal day, standing at this airport you wouldn't really know that anything had happened.
HILL: So based on what you've seen and the information you're getting from all the government departments across Fiji, it seems from what you're saying that Fiji's actually escaped reasonably unscathed?
SMITH-JOHNS: I think so Bruce, but I've only done an aerial survey, and looking at the major damage I know that with power and that we do have an issue with the power now that power lines have been brought down. This is sort of typical of what we were seeing, lots of trees coming down and the poles coming down but not so much damage to houses. I don't know if we go further into Lautoka, we're hoping to get up there today and out to the Esau(?) and the Mamanucas to be able to have a better understanding of it. But certainly it looked encouraging so far from what we've seen. 
HILL: In Samoa a lot of the real damage was caused by flash flooding brought by the cyclone. Has there been any examples of flooding happening in Fiji as a result?
SMITH-JOHNS: There has been some flooding around. Rakiraki was hit by floods again. We've had very high tides which has not helped this flooding here. But from what I can see so far, the flooding doesn't seem to be that bad. Now there has been some people certainly affected by it, but nowhere near what the March floods were, that seems to be out benchmark at the moment. So that was as bad as could possibly get here, so we're looking at it going it's quite encouraging. But there's certainly areas that have been affected.
HILL: What about food security, obviously a lot of coconuts and bananas and fruit trees will be down, is there going to be a food problem for Fiji afterwards?
SMITH-JOHNS: Look I don't see that at the moment because we had a weeks' notice before the floods, so I know a lot of the farmers were there, they had actually got their crops under the ground. They've certainly done quite a bit in preparation for this. I don't, and I'm saying just what I've seen from the air, I know a lot of the crops will have been damaged, but to the extent of that it's a bit hard to tell at the moment.

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