Cyclone Josie: Four dead, major flooding as tropical storm batters Fiji
While Cyclone Josie was a relatively weak category one when it passed to the country’s south-west over the weekend, it brought heavy flooding to the main island of Viti Levu.
According to the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), authorities have urged people to take precautions after four people were confirmed dead in the floodwaters.
The deceased include Veer Goundar, 57, and his daughter Shinal Mudaliar, 25, who were on their way to the Nadi airport when their vehicle was washed off the Tabarua Bridge, the FBC said.
Authorities are still searching for a 19-year-old man who was believed to have been washed away on Sunday, according to FBC.
The tourist town of Nadi was inundated with rain, and Fiji Airways cancelled several flights across the weekend.
Melbourne man Tafazul Akhtar had been in Nadi for a week and said the rain burst the banks of rivers in the town.
“There wasn’t much damage by the wind itself, but there is substantial damage to crops, to animals, livestock, the roads are still flooded … it’s going to be a really touchy couple of weeks,” he said.
The National Disaster Management Office said 35 evacuation centres across Viti Levu would house nearly 2,000 evacuees.
Ba, in the north of the main island, was one of the worst hit areas.
Local Ba resident and publisher of MaiLife magazine Naziah Ali said the community was shocked by the speed and damage of the floodwaters.
“It was raining quite a lot for a number of days before the floods hit yesterday … so we were kind of aware that the floodwaters might come, but we did not know how quickly it would come,” Ms Ali told the ABC.
“A lot of families have lost everything.”
Fiji was devastated by Cyclone Winston in 2016, a category five storm that killed more than 40 people and destroyed thousands of homes.
“I think we’re almost constantly in recovery mode, always trying to rebuild ourselves,” Ms Ali said.
Though making landfall as a much lower category storm, the immense rainfall accompanying Cyclone Josie caused more devastation than many locals expected.
“During Winston we had strong winds but less rain, but this time basically we had little wind but a lot of rainfall,” President of the Ba Mission Hospital and local businessman Jay Dayal said.
“We didn’t expect that there was going to be such a devastating flood.”
Local resident Pauline Kostatino said the floodwaters had receded but were blocking roads across the island, with locals assisting motorists trying to make their way across low-lying bridges
“Most of the homes along the way from Sigatoka to Navua were already flooded and taking in water,” she said.