SUVA (Fiji) • Singapore has joined in the international aid effort for cyclone-hit Fiji, announcing yesterday it was contributing US$100,000 (S$141,000) for relief and recovery in the South Pacific island nation.
Tens of thousands of people remain homeless and are staying in evacuation shelters nearly a week after the devastating storm.
The death toll from Cyclone Winston, the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, is 44, but officials at Fiji's National Disaster Management Office fear that the figure will rise.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has written to his Fijian counterpart, Mr Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, to offer his condolences and the aid. "I was saddened to hear of the loss of lives and destruction in Fiji caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston. I would like to express my deepest condolences to the government, and people of the Republic of Fiji, whose resilience in the face of this disaster has been remarkable," wrote Mr Lee, according to a press statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Officials from the Fiji disaster agency estimate that 35,000 people are taking shelter in evacuation centres, some of which are damaged and running short of food and other supplies. Some 900,000 people live in the archipelago of more than 300 islands.
International aid agencies said supplies were being delivered, but the scale of the damage to infrastructure, particularly jetties and communications equipment, was making it hard to reach remote communities.
Care Australia spokesman Dylan Quinnell said there had still been no contact with some remote communities, including one at Yasawa on the north-west coast of Fiji's largest island, Viti Levu, since the cyclone made landfall on Saturday. Others had been reached using radios dropped by the New Zealand air force.
Ms Alice Clements, a Unicef aid worker, said some communities had been totally destroyed, but rebuilding had already begun.
Australia and New Zealand have so far led the international response, sending planes laden with supplies, helicopters and medical evacuation teams. In addition, there has been financial and other assistance from India, France, China, the United States, Japan, Nauru and the Asian Development Bank.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE