Deadly Storms Across the Pacific

NADI, Fiji, April 13, 2004 (ENS) - Fiji meteorologists are keeping a close watch on a tropical depression forming to the north of the island nation, just five days after a similar storm and strong winds claimed 10 lives and left nine other people missing.

The National Weather Forecasting Centre in Nadi warned today that the islands could expect more flooding of low lying areas in isolated heavy rainfalls, easing by Wednesday night.

The Fiji Red Cross said that in Thursday's storm five people died as a landslide pushed a bus into the flooded Wainibuka River, north of Suva. Two women drowned trying to cross flooded rivers on Fiji's main island of Viti Levu. Four fishermen remain missing at sea in the Yasawa group, west of Viti Levu.

Red Cross

Fiji Red Cross workers with some of their beneficiaries (Photo courtesy IFRC)
One hundred and thirty homes were destroyed, and major roads and stores were closed by the flooding, and communications lines were downed leaving many communities without assistance for at least a day. Some outlying islands are still out of touch.

Fiji's National Emergency Operations Centre estimates that 10,000 people were affected by the storm damage to roads and bridges, crops and homes.

Fiji Red Cross branch volunteers were in the field providing immediate assistance hours after the storm struck. On Friday, a team of assessors and relief workers were deployed from the capital of Suva to determine needs and provide water purification tablets and other assistance.

By Monday, more than 200 volunteers and staff from the Fiji Red Cross had distributed non-food relief supplies to more than 3,800 people and treated injuries caused by broken glass buried in thick mud.

The New Zealand High Commissioner to Suva has offered his nation's assistance, a move confirmed to reporters Tuesday by New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman Jonathan Schwass.


Reef surrounding the island of Yap (Photo courtesy Federated States of Micronesia Visitors Board)
And a thousand miles northwest across the Pacific, Typhoon Sudal hit the island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia April 9 and devastated much of the island.

The storm damaged the airport, hospital, government facilities and much of Yap's water, power and telecommunications infrastructure. Nearly 90 percent of homes were damaged or destroyed.

President George W. Bush declared a state of disaster in the country on April 10 and ordered U.S. aid to be sent to Yap state to assist in relief and recovery efforts. The Federated States of Micronesia was a U.S. territory until 1982 and retains a compact of free association with the United States.

Speaking for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, under secretary for emergency preparedness and response, Department of Homeland Security, said that damage surveys are continuing, and additional areas and assistance may be designated after the assessments are completed.