Fiji's need is great and urgent in rehab efforts: Prime Minister

The damage to Taviya village after the most powerful cyclone in Fiji's history battered the Pacific island nation. PHOTO: AFP

SUVA/SINGAPORE - Fiji's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said his country is undergoing a challenging time coping with the aftermath of Cyclone Winston which struck the South Pacific country on Saturday (Feb 20), claiming at least 29 lives. The priority, he said, is on restoring essential services, and supplying Fijians with sufficient food, water and shelter.

"The need is great and it is also urgent," said the Prime Minister in a statement posted on the Fiji government website on Tuesday (Feb 23).

"I would like to pay tribute to our friends in the region and around the world, along with our local businesses and ordinary Fijians, who are rallying to our assistance in our hour of need," he added.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand have provided emergency supplies and assistance in disaster relief, including the deployment of military transport aircraft to transport food, water and medical supplies to affected areas. The government of India on Monday offered US$1 million (S$1.41 million)in aid to Fiji, adding to the Aus $5 million (S$5.1 million) handed out by Canberra and more than NZ$2 million (S$1.88 million) by Wellington.

"Over the coming weeks, our resolve and tenacity will be sorely tested...Our relief effort is in full swing. We are spreading out all over the country, identifying areas of need and doing everything in our power to provide our people with relief supplies and assistance as fast as we can," said Mr Bainimarama.

He added that every government agency is working together "to deliver aid where it is needed, speedily and efficiently".

The Prime Minister noted that the recovery process will take a long time.

"Almost no part of our nation has been left unscarred. And many of our rural and maritime areas bore the brunt of Winston's fury."

Scores of villages were destroyed by the cyclone which tore through the islands that stood in its path, levelling houses made of wood and tin, and uprooting trees. More than 8,000 Fijians remain in evacuation shelters across the country, after they were made homeless by the fury of the cyclone.

Mr Bainimarama pledged that his government would do its utmost in providing emergency humanitarian assistance to Fijians affected by the most devastating weather phenomenon experienced by the country.

"We realise the desperate position that you are in. We realise how traumatic this is for you and your families...We will not rest until we have reached you and given you the helping hand you so badly need and deserve.."

The Prime Minister stated that medical teams and assessment teams have been deployed throughout the archipelago to provide emergency health services and identify further needs, particularly those badly affected in the maritime areas.

Power has been restored to some areas in the South Pacific country, but damage to Fiji's electricity network remains extensive, and repairs will take considerable time, Mr Bainimarama explained.

"It is time for Fiji to fight back, a time to stand together as one people and rebuild our beloved country," said the Prime Minister.

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