Fiji damaged by cyclone, PM sees 'frightening' weather ahead

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. (Martin Meissner, AP, File)
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. (Martin Meissner, AP, File)

Fiji is entering a "frightening new era" of extreme weather, the leader of the Pacific island nation said on Tuesday after flooding from a cyclone killed at least four people.

Cyclone Josie struck Fiji on Sunday. The Pacific island nation of nearly one million people avoided a direct hit from the winds, but heavy rains and flooding caused damage to homes, businesses and vehicles on the western side of the main island, Viti Levu.

More than 1 000 people remained in evacuation centres this week as the storm moved away.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said climate change was causing extreme weather events to become more severe and occur more often.

Last November, he chaired a climate summit in Bonn, Germany, and he spoke on Tuesday at the launch of a climate change film in the capital, Suva. He said he was trying to deliver the message to the world about confronting the global warming crisis.

It is a "fight for our very survival", he said, and that "we are now at an almost constant level of threat". He said countries must limit the global temperature increase, as agreed under the Paris climate accord.

"It is the only way to prevent catastrophe for the whole world and especially for vulnerable nations such as our own," he said.

A recent report completed by the World Bank and Fiji officials indicated annual losses from extreme weather events could total 6.5% of the economy by 2050, Bainimarama said.

The Fiji Red Cross Society said it was distributing supplies to villagers in the hard-hit town of Ba. Authorities were also trying to restore power to some areas which had suffered outages.

In 2016, Cyclone Winston ripped through Fiji, killing 44 people and destroying thousands of homes.

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