Fiji: It’s business as usual


Flood-ravaged Fiji insisted it was “business as usual” for the South Pacific nation’s vital tourism industry Wednesday, as officials confirmed the death toll from recent downpours had risen to five.

More than 11,000 people were still sheltering in evacuation centres but the ministry of information said power was being restored to flood-hit towns and some schools on the main island had reopened.

“We’ve had a lot of floods but we’ll get back on our own two feet,” Military leader Voreqe Bainimarama told reporters as he toured the disaster zone.

“We hope that this weather will disappear and we’ll get fine weather and sunshine and, of course, the tourists back on.”

The military regime’s permanent secretary for tourism Elizabeth Powell said resorts were ready to welcome the international travellers who are responsible for about a third of the impoverished country’s gross domestic product.

“Fiji?s tourism has quickly returned to business as usual… as regular visitors to Fiji know, the country is extremely resilient and once storms or rains pass, Fiji is back to normal in a matter of days,” she said in a statement.

However, as the country prepared for the Easter weekend, normally a peak period for tourism, Australia and New Zealand advised their citizens to be cautious about visiting flooded areas.

“Some (tourism) providers are still experiencing road access, water and power disruptions,” Australia’s foreign affairs department said in a travel advisory Wednesday.

The Fiji government asked international airlines to temporarily stop bringing tourists into the country earlier this week as thousands of travellers struggled to get home.

But flights were operating normally Wednesday at Nadi international airport, which was cut off at the height of the flooding.

The Disaster Management Centre (Dismac) said five people were confirmed dead and three were missing.

“The Dismac team, together with other special authorities, are trying to find the missing people,” Dismac director Patiliai Dobui said.

Health ministry spokesman Peni Nomuto said the number of people in evacuation centres was expected to drop significantly in coming days as people were able to return to their homes.

“All the evacuation centres have the major problem with no drinking water and poor sanitation,” he said. “Despite this, our officials are taking good care of evacuees.”

The country was still recovering from severe floods in January which killed 11 people.