NFP CALLS UPON GOVERNMENT TO DECLARE WESTERN DIVISION FLOOD AFFECTED AREAS DISASTER ZONE

The National Federation Party calls upon Government to declare the Western Division flood-stricken districts a State of Natural Disaster.

This would enable everyone affected by the devastating floods and freak winds caused by Tropical Cyclone Josie to be provided immediate assistance by the State. And money from the COP 23 Presidency Trust Fund should be diverted towards immediate relief work.

A similar move should be done for flood affected areas in other parts of the country that are in danger of being flooded because weather forecast shows the unpredictable nature of the cyclone that is causing widespread torrential rain.
It is clear from reports and initial assessments done by NFP teams comprising of stalwarts, national and branch executives and provisional candidates, as well as from media reports of widespread destruction and severe damage.

Many areas have suffered damage and destruction of unprecedented proportions caused by strong currents of raging floodwaters not experienced before in by the people.

Most parts of the Western Division are without electricity and water and limited communication. Because many rural areas have become inaccessible due to damage to infrastructure like roads and bridges, an aerial survey is immediately needed for an initial assessment.

We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to those families who have tragically lost their loved ones. We share their grief and pray that the Lord Almighty provides them courage to bear their irreplaceable loss.

We also extend our sympathies to the many thousands whose livelihood has been severely impacted as a result of damages to their homes, businesses and crops.

By now Government should have learnt from the experience of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston and the widespread flash floods that hit the West and the North a month after the monstrous cyclone and be in a state of disaster preparedness both in terms of equipping evacuation centres with essentials and food items as priority number one. They have had extensive donor support and capacity building to support this preparedness.

Secondly, Government must have a rehabilitation package in place to assist victims and families following an immediate disaster impact assessment. In the immediate aftermath of Winston Government was caught off-guard and thousands of our people had to rely on immediate assistance provided by Australia and New Zealand.

However, this time Government does not have any excuses.

Government must establish the areas in the country worst affected that need immediate help. It will be of great relief to the victims if Government transports food and water in large quantities to the affected and identified areas immediately. Victims who have lost everything cannot wait any longer. They need food, water and clothing immediately.

Massive rehabilitation required.

Most of the municipalities in the Western Division suffered millions of dollar’s worth of damages. The business community has suffered damage and losses.

Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed by flood waters. Farmers lost their livestock. Agricultural crops including sugarcane have been either destroyed or severely damaged.

It is clear that millions of dollars will be needed to bring some degree of relief to the flood victims in the affected areas of Fiji. As a priority, we suggest that Government’s machinery do the following:

1. Deploy army engineers to repair badly damaged infrastructure including schools and essential basic services like water supply. The personnel should also be used to help in the clean-up effort after the flood and distribution of food rations.

2. Approve a cash grant package to assist flood victims to re-build lost or damaged homes and purchase necessary household goods.

3. Approve a crop rehabilitation package to assist the agricultural sector including the sugar industry.

4. The businesses that have lost everything and those in danger of going under cannot survive even with assistance by their banks or delay in loan repayments. A rehabilitation package is also needed for them.

5. Funds from the COP 23 Presidency Trust Fund should be diverted towards relief efforts.

Professor Biman Prasad Leader