CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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Fiji flooded in tropical downpour

BA (SE): In the run up to Easter, the tiny Pacific-island nation of Fiji was inundated with floods affecting hundreds and thousands of people.

As rivers burst their banks on the island of Viti Levu, home to 87 per cent of the island-nation’s total population of less than one million, the United Nations offered support to the waterlogged inhabitants.

However, international access to aid has been hampered with the closure of Fiji’s major international airport in Nadi, due to rising waters and the isolation of the landing strip caused by the swelling floods.

Father Donal McIlraith told the Sunday Examiner from the township of Ba, near Nadi airport, that this is the worst flood he has ever seen, bigger than the massive floods of 2009.

“The whole area looking out from Namosau and Yalaevu is totally under water,” the Columban priest said.

He said on March 31 that the large Rajendra Supermarket, which was a lifesaver during the 2009 floods, was under water and that his parish, which is on slightly higher ground, has become a refugee centre for people forced from their homes by the swirling onslaught of water.

“Women are swimming up to the parish from the market dormitory, where they normally stay when they come into town from Vavala and other hillside villages to market day,” he noted.

“They are being looked after and fed in the parish hall, but are cold and wet,” Father McIlraith went on, adding that dry clothing is at a premium, as the leftovers from the stock collected for the last flood is running out.

He added that although there are no known fatalities, women coming from the flooded market did report one woman who panicked and began swimming towards the river and they do not know what happened to her.

He added that the high water marks are aggravated by tidal movement and it is difficult to predict how high the water level will reach.

He described it as a sad Palm Sunday for the people in the area.

Martin Nesirky, a spokesperson for the United Nations, reported, “The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that rains brought on by a tropical depression have caused flooding in large parts of Fiji, especially the country’s western region.”

He added, “The government estimates that 150,000 people have been affected so far. The United Nations remains concerned about the situation in Fiji and has offered support to the government, which is leading the humanitarian response.”

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