Thousands of cyclone victims without food, water

  • 18th January 2003
  • 2003
  • // Display comment count + link

Three days after a cyclone hit the Labasa area in Vanua Levu, thousands of people without food, water and shelter have received no relief assistance.

The Fiji Labour Party is urging government to immediately start distributing food rations and water to desperate starving families.

“Hundreds of families have lost everything they owned – their homes, clothes, food, furniture everything. Hundreds of others have suffered extensive losses caused by the flooding and the cyclone,” FLP’s assistant secretary-general Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi said after a survey of affected rural areas outside Labasa.

Vayeshnoi has been in Labasa for the past two days visiting the devastated areas with Labour Party MPs in the North.

FLP has already distributed $4000 worth of food packages to desperate families. The party is also doing its best to cart water to the very needy areas although all the tankers and trucks have been hired by businessmen cleaning their shops.

“But this is like a drop in the ocean. The situation is very grim and very tragic. Government must immediately start feeding the thousands of hungry people in the North. Starving families who have lost everything cannot wait for the slow process of bureaucracy.

“They need food desperately. They need immediate water. They need shelter . They need clothing. The areas we have visited so far reveal at least 350 families facing an extreme situation, having lost everything,” Mr. Vayeshnoi said.

None of these areas have received assistance from anyone else. “We hear the Red Cross has distributed food rations to 50,000 people. But not a single package of this food has so far gone to people in Wainikoro, Naleba Bulileka, Batanikama, Siberia, Namara and other areas surveyed by the FLP.

The initial Labour Party survey shows:

  • 151 families in the Wainikoro area have lost their homes and everything they possessed. Another 300 have suffered very extensive loss
  • In the Naleba area 78 families have been stripped of everything with another 100 or so suffering very extensive damage.
  • In Korotari where entire families were washed away, much of the damage has been caused by flooding. Here 56 homes have been completely devastated and another 300 homes have suffered extensive damage.
  • Bulileka is another area that has sustained severe damage with 24 families completely devastated. The Naleba Primary School is one of the worst affected by the cyclone.
  • In the squatter settlement of Namara, people who were already living in poverty, have been left totally devastated.

Government and other official relief agencies must work swiftly to provide for the very basic needs of the victims of the cyclone.

Much of the area in the North is just a sea of mud, often knee deep. Many of the rural roads have still not been cleared. The town is still covered in mud.

“The damage to people and infrastructure is so severe, Labasa just doesn’t have the facility to cope,” Mr. Vayeshnoi said.

Areas that are still inaccessible should immediately have food parcels dropped by air. This is more than possible considering the willingness of Australia and New Zealand to assist in the relief effort.