Hurricane Tomas: Human Beings and Politics
UNICEF estimates that at least 150,000 people, primarily in Fiji's Northern and Eastern Divisions could have been directly affected by the hurricane (see map).
International airlines. Air New Zealand and V-Australia including Fiji's own carrier, Air Pacific, have resumed operations in and out of Nadi International airport today, albeit on delayed schedules. Earlier, eleven Japanese travel journalists who will spend a week in Fiji reporting on its tourist attractions were greeted on arrival by Hurricane Tomas.
Tourism Fiji CEO Josefa Tuamoto has confirmed that no tourist was hurt in the wake of the cyclone and there have been no reports of extensive damage to hotels and resorts throughout the country. Tourism facilities on the main island of Viti Levu (Coral Coast, Denarau, Nadi and Pacific Harbour) and in the nearby Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands escaped unscathed.
Disaster Management (DISMAC) Operations officer, Anthony Blake, said his officials will meet with representatives of donor countries tomorrow to discuss emergency aid needs. “They will start their own assessment once the weather clears.” Meanwhile government's "key priority is the safety of everyone ... The Red Cross is government's primary provider on the ground at the moment.” The immediate needs for the affected areas include tents and emergency shelters, water storage containers and water purification tablets and
A RNZAF C130 "Kiwi 698" aircraft has arrived at the Nausori airport to conduct aerial surveys and distribute relief supplies to Labasa, and a second aircraft from the Australian RAAF is expected to arrive into Nausori this afternoon, reload for Labasa, and conduct aerial survey of Lomaiviti and Lau. The Fiji military has no airforce and commercial planes are not suited for this sort of work.
Australia will provide up to $US1,000,000 in initial emergency humanitarian assistance following an official request for assistance from the Fiji Government, and provide funding to DISMAC to charter transport such as helicopters and boats to deliver much needed relief supplies to remote communities. Fiji Red Cross will also receive funding to distribute emergency supplies already in storage in Fiji, and enable the local purchase of other essential supplies. Australia and NZ are expected to work closely to coordinate their responses. Australia's willingness to work with the Fiji government is commendable. It contrasts with NZ's flood relief assistance to the Northern Division last year dealt only with NGOs, bypassing official government channels. (NZ will also provide $1,000,000).
Media Decree consultations delayed. Hurricane Tomas has delayed public consultations on the Media Decree, which were due to start today. The consultations, deferred until further notice, are expected to be held in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa.
National Youth Day postponed. The PM has announced that the public holiday for National Youth Day next Monday will now be a normal work and school day. He said this will help the country to recover the days lost. Bainimarama said we must come together as a nation and must also do so for our fellow citizens who have suffered loss of livelihood and shelter.The National Youth Day celebrations will be held at a laterdate.
Making political capital out of disaster. Australia and New Zealand have commendably avoided linking their humanitarian aid to politics, a position much improved on their politically-weighted assistance to the Western Division following last year's floods. Not so the...
,,, the Anti-Bloggers. I know some readers think I should be less often critical of anti-government bloggers and the comments they attract to their blogsites but I thought they'd like to read about how some such blogs reported Hurricane Tomas.
One blog criticized government for imposing the curfew and asking evacuees to take bedding and food to evacuation centres ("we're in a recession ... surely officials can come up with provisions"). An anonymous comment had this to say: "A curfew for some rain and wind? The jittery regime is jumping at shadows. This indian supported coup is becoming a joke. The sooner the real cleanout starts the better!! Cassava patch runner will be offfaster than a mongoose!!!"
Another anti-government blog was a shade more charitable with news on fundraising in Auckland (vinaka) and NZ government assistance (vinaka vakalaveu), followed by a brief note that the Fiji interim governmnent was assessing (sic!) the situation!