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Fiji evacuees return home after cyclone

Sunday December 23, 2012 - 21:54 EDT
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President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau visits an emergency centre in Rewa. (Ministry of Information) - ABC
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Some of the many children being housed in evacuation centres in Fiji. (MINFO) - ABC

The United Nations says it's hoped many of the cyclone evacuees being housed in emergency shelters in Fiji will be home in time for Christmas.

The UN's representative for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs, Peter Muller, says 8,000 have returned home over the past few days.

A further 5,000 people are still waiting for their homes to be repaired before they can leave.

Speaking from Fiji, Mr Muller has told Radio Australia frantic efforts are continuing to assist everyone in need.

"There are still 5,255 people in evacuation centres, that's mainly in the west where people have lost houses.

"So there's a lot of work still going on ground. There's a massive clean-up of the area, particularly around Lautoka, Ba and to a certain extent, Nadi as well."

The United Nations Children's Fund has also begun helping the children in need in cyclone-affected Fiji and Samoa.

UNICEF says one of the immediate challenges is to ensure there are no outbreaks of disease as a result of contaminated water.

The organisation says it will supply 5,000 doses of tetanus vaccine for Samoa.

It will also provide tens of thousands of sachets of oral rehydration salts to both countries.

UNICEF's representative Dr Isiye Ndombi is in Fiji and says there are several priorities - and challenges.

"Our lead role is in the areas of water, sanitation and nutrition of children and protecting them from harm. Luckily, the schools are closed now," he told Radio Australia's

"The immediate priorities are to ensure that these people have sufficient food, they have safe water and sanitation and they have good shelter, but also to circulate key hygiene and health messages to the population.

"Because this is a time when epidemics can spread very easily."

More than 8,000 people in Fiji and 7,000 in Samoa have been forced to flee their homes in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Evan.

UNICEF says water and electricity shortages across both countries are creating a potentially dangerous situation for thousands.

Meanwhile, police in Fiji say 15 people were due in court on Friday charged with looting during Cyclone Evan.

They say 12 men and two women are accused of stealing $20,000 Fijian dollars worth of goods from a supermarket. Another man is accused of stealing $2,000 worth of liquor.

Fiji's interim government says a damage assessment team is touring the country's Northern Division to survey schools that were destroyed by the cyclone.

The Ministry of Education's permanent secretary, Dr Brij Lal, says the teams will focus primarily on structural damages to schools.

Dr Lal says all repairs will be completed before the new school year begins.

In Samoa, five people have been killed and at least 12 people are still missing after Cyclone Evan smashed into the Pacific island nation.


© ABC 2012

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