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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Fijians In Australia Safe Despite Major Flooding
Thousands displaced, 3 dead after heavy rains in Queensland

By Nasik Swami

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 29, 2013) – Some Fijians who are among those living in the path of deadly floodwaters in Queensland, Australia, say they are safe but are anticipating worse in days to come as rainfall and floodwaters continue to inundate the Sunshine state.

Kusum Kumari Chand, a former Fiji citizen living in Marsden, Brisbane, said in an interview at 3pm yesterday (1pm Australia time) that it had been raining since last Tuesday and Marsden was like a sea — flood everywhere.

Torrential rain has flooded several towns in eastern Australia leaving three dead.

Businesses in the Queensland state capital Brisbane were inundated while 1,200 properties were flooded by record-high waters in the city of Bundaberg.

Government helicopters were used to rescue 18 people from the roofs of their homes in Bundaberg, which has a population of 98,000.

As well, several tornadoes struck at the weekend in the central and south-east areas of the state, causing widespread damage. Mrs. Chand said rainfall was continuing accompanied by strong winds.

"There are floodwaters everywhere. All roads are closed and power supply has been intermittent," she said.

Mrs. Chand, who lives with her family, said they were safe but were worried about what could happen in days to come as heavy rainfall continued unabated. Weather watchers have dubbed the flood as one of the most severe in the history of Australia, and south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales are struggling with an unfolding weather disaster as floodwaters force more evacuations.

Mrs. Chand said roofs were ripped off by strong winds and majority of the power supply and phone lines remained cut.

"Many Brisbane residents have been told to leave their homes due to the intensity of flood waters. The most affected is Bundaberg and Gympie where people had to be evacuated and majority had left their houses with their families because of the fear of dying," she said.

Mrs. Chand said earlier in the day she spoke with her son Naresh Chand, a former Fiji citizen who stays in Goodna in Brisbane.

"Naresh, who is from Nausori said they were without power supply since Saturday. He said he was okay and his family was safe as well. He said everything was closed nobody was suppose to go outside because of the flood waters," she said.

Mrs. Chand said in the path of the disaster, thousands of people were told to leave their homes.

"We have bought all the necessary items such as food and are keeping a close watch on the weather conditions and adversaries in the media," she said.

Mrs. Chand said the flood was very similar to the one that hit Australia in 2011 and heavy rainfall and flood waters have also started to hit the New South Wales in Sydney.

Permanent secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns said the best thing for any Fijian citizen in Australia should do was to listen to advisories and take shelter because the situation there was shocking.

Further attempts to get comments from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the safety of Fijians in Queensland were unsuccessful.

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