Fiji looks to post-cyclone clean-up

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 14:46 19/12/2012

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Life in cyclone ravaged Fiji and Samoa is starting to get back to normal, with hopes the tourism industry in both countries will bounce back.

A state of natural disaster has been declared in the Northern and Western Divisions of Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Evan, which hit the country this week after killing at least four people in Samoa last week.

National Disaster Management Office director Manasa Tagicakibau said the order would allow authorities to speed up rehabilitation work, which began yesterday.

Fiji's Tourism Secretary Elizabeth Powell said the military had been dispatched to help the hotels as well as residents.

Nearly all major hotels in Fiji have reported only minor damage and the Coral Reef area was close to fully operational, Powell said.

Tourism is one of the main industries in Fiji and in the coming months it will be relied upon even more while primary industries work to get back on their feet, she said.

CLEAN UP BEGINS

A New Zealander who's spent the last few days at the Hilton resort on Denarau with his family said the mood among tourists was "flat".

"I think a lot of people feel quite bad, they understand that Fiji has been hit with a phenomenal storm  but at the same time it's not the Fiji that every one signed up for," Fairfax reporter Marc Hinton said.

Hinton said power was still out in many places and in their hotel only the lights were working, as there was no power for air conditioning or anything else.

The beaches were strewn with debris and all the pools were still closed.

He said the number of tourists at the hotel had "thinned out" but a backlog of waiting passengers at the airport meant some guests had reluctantly returned to the hotel.

But while yesterday the clean up had officially begun, Hinton said today marked the first signs of assemblance or normalcy.

"Walking out of the hotels for the first time, there was just debris everywhere. Trees were uprooted, fences torn down and blown everywhere and it was really about assessing what had happened.

"Today the clean up has really gotten under way."

The recovery has also begun for Samoa's tourism industry.

The iconic Aggie Grey's Hotel on Apia's waterfront had been closed since it was flooded when the cyclone hit Samoa last Thursday.

Staff had been working to remove the silt from the ground floor and hope to open again soon.

"The cleanup is expected to be completed by the 23rd and the hotel will open on the 24th," said Aggie Grey's Resort general manager Theresa Sing.

All guests from the hotel had been moved to the Aggie Grey's beach resort 27km from Apia.

So far there had been only one cancellation.

Apia city had been flooded and electricity has only just returned to the main township. Major supermarkets were now beginning to open.

At the resort no services had been hindered during the storm.

"We have been fully operational, no shortage of food, electricity or water," Sing said.

Tourists were continuing to fly to Samoa and only four reservations had been cancelled, said Laura Wadsworth managing director at Sunseeker Travel.

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Before the cyclone grounded all flights within the country, about 2000 people flew out of Fiji.

Powell said that figure was not too far above the numbers that would normally leave or arrive on any given day.

INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE

New Zealand has contributed close to $1 million to help Samoa and Fiji in the aftermath of Evan and further funding is expected.

It has offered an initial $50,000 to respond to specific requests from Fiji. Tarpaulins, water containers, generators and chainsaw packs were also on the way to Fiji on commercial flights.

A further contribution of $170,000 has been made to the Fiji Red Cross.

New Zealand has also offered Samoa a total of $600,000 in assistance, bringing the total assistance package for both countries to $870,000.

Five additional New Zealand Red Cross workers would travel to Samoa to support local efforts.

US Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa David Huebner said the US was providing a further US$100,000 (NZ$119,000) to the Samoa Red Cross for immediate cyclone relief efforts.

"With thousands of people displaced and many homes destroyed, we're committed to doing what we can to help our friends in Samoa," Ambassador Huebner said.
 
The US$100,000 in funds was in addition to the US$50,000 announced last Friday.

- Stuff

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