Co-ordinated response to relief efforts vital for Fiji's recovery from cyclone disaster: Prime Minister Bainimarama

Cyclone Winston wrecked infrastructure and caused the loss of life when it ravaged through Fiji.
Cyclone Winston wrecked infrastructure and caused the loss of life when it ravaged through Fiji. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ THE GOVERNMENT OF FIJI
Cyclone Winston wrecked infrastructure and caused the loss of life when it ravaged through Fiji.
Cyclone Winston wrecked infrastructure and caused the loss of life when it ravaged through Fiji. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ THE GOVERNMENT OF FIJI
Cyclone Winston wrecked infrastructure and caused the loss of life when it ravaged through Fiji.
Cyclone Winston wrecked infrastructure and caused the loss of life when it ravaged through Fiji. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ THE GOVERNMENT OF FIJI
Cyclone Winston wrecked infrastructure and caused the loss of life when it ravaged through Fiji.
Cyclone Winston wrecked infrastructure and caused the loss of life when it ravaged through Fiji. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ THE GOVERNMENT OF FIJI
Cyclone Winston wrecked infrastructure and caused the loss of life when it ravaged through Fiji.
Cyclone Winston wrecked infrastructure and caused the loss of life when it ravaged through Fiji. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ THE GOVERNMENT OF FIJI

SUVA/SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama stressed the need for a co-ordinated response to the relief efforts by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and humanitarian agencies to avoid duplication and prevent any wastage of available resources, at a briefing on Monday (Feb 22) at the National Disaster Management Office.

The Fiji government's website on Monday stated that the government is keen to get relief supplies to people living in rural and maritime communities. The prime minister said medical teams have been deployed to evacuation centres to provide services for inaccessible areas. He also added that the Ministry for Health is also working with humanitarian organizations to deliver medical equipment and services.

Mr Bainimarama said efforts were made to assess the extent of the damage across the country following Cyclone Winston which tore through villages and towns, levelling homes, wrecking buildings, destroying crops, and causing the loss of life.

The Fiji government said it is working hard to co-ordinate rescue and recovery efforts saying there is an urgent requirement for additional resources to address the needs of affected Fijians and assist with the rebuilding process.

New Zealand has extended NZ$50,000 (S$47,000) in emergency assistance to Fiji plus NZ$170,000 in humanitarian relief supplies being offered to Fiji, according to its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. A New Zealand Defence Force C-130 Hercules aircraft was deployed to the Fijian capital, Suva on Monday with the relief supplies and an emergency response team. A New Zealand Defence Force P3 Orion aircraft was despatched earlier to help Fijian authorities carry out aerial surveillance and to assess damage across the affected areas. In addition to the emergency funds and deployment of resources, Wellington is also granting NZ$1.8 million in aid to Fiji for humanitarian assistance for rehabilitation, bringing the total amount of emergency aid to more than NZ$2 million.

Australia is providing an initial Aus $5 million (S$5 million) package of assistance to Fiji in an immediate response to the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston. Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), Julie Bishop, announced this in a statement on Monday on MOFAT's website.

"This package will support those in greatest need, facilitating the rapid release of pre-positioned stores and food items to assist people who remain in evacuation centres or who have been displaced due to the cyclone. These stores will ensure communities have access to safe drinking water and basic hygiene for those who have lost their houses or are displaced," said Ms Bishop.

She added that Australia has offered a P3 Orion aircraft to Fiji to assist with aerial surveillance of affected areas. Canberra has also offered MRH-90 helicopters to assist Fiji to carry out assessments and provide relief to the outlying islands affected by the cyclone.

"The full impact of this disaster is still not known. We stand ready to provide further assistance to support Fiji's relief and recovery efforts," said Ms Bishop.

Living through the cyclone was a harrowing experience for those who were safe from harm.

"All evening and night, the gusty winds and pouring rains were so powerful that my whole house was banging and I was feeling the floor violently vibrating," said Mr Kim Rok Ho, Head of the Health Cluster of the World Health Organisation office in Suva told The Straits Times via email, as he recounted his experience of the cyclone last Saturday.

The United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Alice Clements expressed concern that the damage caused by Cyclone Winston would have a grave impact on the people of Fiji, particularly rural folk who rely on their home gardens for subsistence and also to sell at the local markets. The destruction of their homes and livelihoods would be a major blow to the poor villagers, she told The Straits Times via telephone from Suva.

"There will be significant humanitarian needs for the people of Fiji affected by the cyclone," Ms Clements concluded.