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Fiji floods leave thousands at risk of illness

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  • Fiji floods leave thousands at risk of illness


    Fiji floods leave thousands at risk of illness
    * Suva
    * January 17, 2009

    TENS of thousands of people are at risk of contracting respiratory illnesses, malaria and dengue fever after Fiji's worst flooding in a generation killed at least 11 people and left thousands homeless, authorities have warned.

    National Disaster Management Office director Joeli Cawaki said it would take time for floods to recede and that there was a fear of disease.

    Medical authorities have already reported 85 people, including six babies, with diarrhoea and respiratory illnesses at one emergency shelter in the battered western region.

    Hundreds of homes and businesses in towns and villages on the main island of Viti Levu have been inundated by waist-deep water from overflowing rivers and streams.

    Clean drinking water is scarce in some places, and stagnant water increases the risk of exposure to mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

    More than 9000 people ? many without food, clean water, clothes or other possessions ? are in evacuation centres after a week of torrential storms triggered the worst flooding in 40 years.

    Foreign Affairs Secretary Ratu Isoa Gavidi said there was "a desperate need" for clean drinking water, water tanks and water purification tablets, as well as clothes, blankets, bedding and tents.

    "There are some areas that have no water supplies at all," he told New Zealand's National Radio. "It could be roughly two to three weeks they will be without water."

    Sereima Koli, 37, a resident of the main tourist town of Nadi, was quoted as saying on the FijiLive news website that she had no clean water for drinking, washing or for sanitation.

    "I hope the authorities start carting water to us soon," she said.

    Australia has pledged $3 million towards humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and recovery funding.

    Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in Perth yesterday that the $3 million included $150,000 given to the Fiji Red Cross on Tuesday.

    A further $850,000 would be given to boost aid programs and supply food, water, sanitation and transport.

    An extra $2 million would be made available for recovery and reconstruction programs and it would be decided if further funds were required.

    New Zealand will give up to $NZ100,000 ($A80,900). Prime Minister John Key said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade might offer more help.