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Fiji Floods: ‘The Village Drowned’

The rains in Fiji began falling Wednesday, January 7 and didn't let up for more than a week. All told — and we aren't quite done yet — eight people have died (three people are reported missing), nearly 10,000 people are being housed in shelters and damage to homes, crops and businesses could climb to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Water and electricity services remain scarce. Local media is reporting that Nadi’s hospital has been rationing water to its patients.

Global Voices’ two previous posts have centered on the big picture. This post will look at the personal side of the disaster as the worst flooding in decades appears to be mostly over, and bloggers can make their way to cybercafes to tell their tales.

From Amy, a Peace Corps volunteer, who wrote this post Sunday, January 11 in her blog The Island:

My village lies at the mouth of a river and is so low that the tides sometimes affect the bus routes. When high tide comes after a big rain, the road floods. Heavy rains = no good for my area. Concerning my house…My host mom called to tell me reluctantly that “Emi, oh…..Emi……ah…..Na koro sa luvu” translation “the village drowned” and with the village went my house. So, in what I imagine to be a ridiculous caper, my family members broke my windows to unlock the door in a rescue attempt. They managed to rescue my possessions before the floor of the house was submerged in the rising waters. My clothes and books were consolidated to the top bunk of the bunk beds and my food was taken to the chief's house. (Please save some little debbie snack cakes for me!)

…I'm worried about the other houses in the village and what everyone is doing during this crisis.

Taylar, another Peace Corps volunteer who blogs at Tropical Adventure experiences her first tropical depression:

…I'm in the middle of my first tropical storm, what they call a tropical depression. That means it's been raining for a week straight now and tomorrow it's supposed to pick up again. The wind has been nuts crazy strong and I've never seen so much rain in my life! Luckily, my little bure is holding strong. I've lost a lot of my roof but no leaks… yet. And yet, life goes on as normal. Except that I do have a litter of puppies that keep coming to me for refuge from the storm. I can't help but take pity on them they're just so small and cute! And flea/pest infected, sadly. I feed them sometimes and let them stay in my kitchen (which is outside and really just where my stoves are) out of the rain but they really want to come in and snuggle! If they were clean, I would totally let them. They're just so helpless.

Most of the extensive damage took place on the western side of Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island. Here is a photo from the town of Ba taken by Abhay Nand and sent by Ratu M Radrodro to the Luve i Viti (Children of Fiji) blog.

fiji

From the Luve i Viti blog:

The flood stricken town of Ba & the rest of the affected areas in Fiji will indeed pose alot of health risks for Infants, Children, Youths & Families alike…

It is a sad state particularly when Fiji's Economy is so down & out at the moment & excercebated by the current ‘Global Crunch’. These most recent Natural Disaster of Jan 09 is almost the final straw for the people of Fiji.

Jonathan, an American who lives and works in Fiji and writes at Oceanic: User Experiences from the South Pacific, had to keep up from the flooding through the “disconnected” Fiji media while he was away in New York. It all led to a disjointed picture focused on tourists’ plight.

To be honest, I don't really care about the tourists who are having their holidays interrupted by the weather and am tiring of seeing news stories about them. Unfortunately, I don't think Fiji does well in “reactive mode” during times like this and many people who have come for holidays are probably experiencing it and wont be returning because of it. Although this isn't important right now, it might be in the future.

This brings up an interesting point. With much of Australia’s and New Zealand’s media focusing on the plight of tourists trapped in resorts and hotels run by skeleton staffs (or those who waited out the rains at the airport), how important should these people be to a government that has other needs? Here's the take from the government's own blog, IG-Fiji.

Now, let's get to a few few posts from tourists who found themselves in flooded Fiji.

Dickon Springate, from the United Kingdom, is currently on the road.

I am gutted.

I have just arrived in Fiji, the promised land, the halfway point in my travel, where lister was going to travel with Cat and where Jim Carey's character Truman Burbank was desperate to reach to find his lost love and when I arrive … it is totally flooded.

It is the worst rain in living memory, and although I have made to the airport all the main roads out to the big cities are totally blocked and all because of this all the hotels are fully booked, but thankfully a nice woman who works in the airport has found me a place to stay where her brother lives about ten minutes drive from the
airport.

The insurance people are useless, as are the airline telephone staff and if it were not for me talking to the people around me I would be forced to stay in the airport for almost an entire week, as the rains are due to get worse not better.

Arrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh

From Craig B, who was stranded on the Coral Coast way back on January 8, right after the rains began.

Apparently the tropical depression that hit Fiji has flooded the roads back to Nadi so we are currently stuck at Uprising Beach resort. The good news is I no longer have to worry about getting sunburned. The bad news is that the mosquitoes are out in record numbers and are currently having a 5 course meal (my legs, arms and neck).

From DrewMarie, who arrived to Fiji just in time for the floods.

The first day of my trip has been the longest day of my life, and it is not only because I am on “Fiji time”, which I don't find very enjoyable. I will embellish later, but I reccomend not coming to Fiji during cyclone season (this is the msot rain Fiji has seen in 300 years, or so they say). Needless to say, we are stuck in a mainland hotel praying the flights go out tomorrow moring to Auckland.

Don't worry, there is laughter in it all. If it doesn't kill me, it just makes me stronger;)

The good news for those traveling on Fiji’s Pacific Air: visitors will now be able to change travel dates without incurring extra costs. The first blogger to report this was Babsiga.

It is generous of Air Pacific and others to consider the changes to travellers plans because honestly, it is not the right time to take a tropical holiday in Fiji. Wait until the infrastructure is fixed a little and think of those who work in the resorts who need time out to take care of their families and losses.

From a group called fiji-travelers, who were in Suva during the worst of the flooding.

Fortunately Suva itself has not been affected by flooding, although Nasouri is only 25 minutes drive from us. All planes have been cancelled from the local airport at Nasouri. The worst affected areas were between Suva and Nadi which is a 3 hour drive. Nadi is the tourist destination of Fiji and most holiday makers are stranded at their resorts as they cannot leave.

It was raining all last week – all day every day including last Saturday when we were moving house ( this is another story), yet Sunday and Monday in Suva was good weather. It is still extremely humid and there is a chance that a cyclone could hit us this week.

So far so good. It all seems a bit distant here in Suva, however when you see photos and talk to some of the people affected, with flooding 3 – 4 feet high a lot of people have lost all that they own. The major roads arent open yet, the majority of bridges have washed away and so far 5 people have died. They are already saying that it could take up to 2 months to recover.

A post from the Brooks, an American couple who were in Fiji during the storms:

I mentioned in a earlier post how friendly the Fijian people are. They just can't do enough for you and truly want you to have a good time. They have a great sense of humor and will make jokes with you if you show the slightest hint of a sense of humor. They apologize for the nasty weather we have found ourselves in…really! John called the Fiji Weather Service a couple days ago and the forecaster he spoke with actually said he was sorry that it was going to keep raining and get worse. Today the young man that rode with us to Port Denarau apologized to us that the rain had taken over our vacation and asked us to “please come back again”.

11 comments

  • SMW

    The aid money should come in handy for a military junta that took over in a coup. Who will be accounting the UN and other country sanctions exceptions? Will the new emergency aid budgets become 5 year emergency sustainable budgets?

    How many of the natives have left for other countries?

  • I hope the recovery will go smoothly. In Madagascar, we are still smarting from the flood damages a year later. best wishes to all.

  • My prayers and thoughts go out to my all my brothers and sisters around the World, and especially in the Fiji Islands. I was born in Suva, Fiji and have now lived in the United States of America since 1966.

    I pledge that as a”Director of the Soroptimist” International of Santa Clara California, U.S.A. I will be collecting money, clothing, and supplies to help the victims in Fiji.
    May God’s love be upon all of you as we come together during these difficult times.

  • Excellent posting John as always!!
    Kudos to you for that. From someone thats looking in from outside Fiji, yes Fiji is in sad state. Theres already evidence of the ‘Blame game’ in motion already at the time of this posting. It does not come as a surprise.

    As you rightly stated SMV – Aid funds have come into the country when the Military ‘Junta’ as you stated above are the key players here. However, their hopes are dashed because those funds are not landing in their ‘Blood stained hands’ (as Fiji lost some of its sons being bashed up during their rule so said the experts who had been following the saga back in Fiji post coup.) Anyway, experts & Heads of Governments etc from various countries are donating their hard eaned tax payers’ dollars via Donor Agencies & not directly to the Fiji IG. Thats +++++ for those us that have very close links with Fiji even though we are natives & have left as you stated in your comment above. Yes we have left physically but are very much there in our hearts as our Families or (Mataqai) or Tanagata Whenua, Whakapapa as the Maori says, land, mountains & seas etc are still there and will remain there unless it disappears in a tidal wave or rising sea level. But hey…Fiji is still very much home for alot of us Natives whether you like it or not!!

  • Lani Nale Vuniivi

    My prayers and warm regards goes out to al theflood victims and people of Fiji esp to all the Votua n Sasa villagers.Remember there is always a rainbow after the rain.

  • Hilah and Katherine

    The flood in Fiji sounds extremely disasterous. We can’t imagine the effects this must have on the Fijians. The people of Fiji seem to be taking this dilema very well and making the best of it. This tragic flood just goes to show the effects that global warming is having on the planet. The weather patterns are affected therefore more rain falls over Fiji. People’s houses are being destroyed and some Fijians have been reported dead or missing. There are millions of dollars in repair and destruction of crops.

  • nadia

    i think there is too much sin gng on in fiji thats why all this is happening.

  • Anand Kumar

    Someone earlier said this rain worst in the 300 years…I woluld like to know who has been keeping a record for last 300 years in Fiji…

    Its about time the government and we as people stop being lazy and build our homes not near creeks or rivers so as to we dont have to travel far for Water and Fish…but look now–if someones house gets flooded..its once too many and not to mention the dangers/risks to human and animal lives.

    Perfect example..Ba Market was relocated from old place .staight on the path of old creek..why..there were lots of higher grounds it could have been relocated to ..WHERE WAS THE PLANNING???

    Of course luckliy we dont get these floods too often but planning ahead means lot of pain free times for future.

    More Planning needs to be done..We cant play with nature nor fight with it…

    More so now lets get behind all those affected and help them get onto their feet..

  • Anand Kumar

    There was the floods of 2009 and I hear lots of donations from Foreign countires and our Fiji Governemnt came..had not been distributed according to the needs.. Normally these doations are given for a village headman or advisory councillors to distribute to needy..PLEASE ENSURE THAT THE HELP/DONATIONS/RATIONS GET TO THE NEEDY AND NOT TO THE GREEDY..

    I know the government people cant be every where and cannot be policed allover..

    Lets all be considerate.

  • S. Dayal

    Very very sad about it all…..Hope the rain clears off soon and hopefully Fiji will shine again through it all as She normally does and welcomes more tourists come the dry season…… My thoughts with all those affected….

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