New Zealanders in a flood-ridden area of Fiji have been evacuated from their resort on Denarau Island by helicopter.
The tourist complex built on an artificial set of islands was evacuated after growing concern for the area by officials.
The flooding has caused widespread devastation in Fiji and two people have died in rivers swollen by heavy rain that continues to batter the western region of the country.
Yesterday, Nadi was under 6m of water, hundreds of locals had been forced into evacuation centres and a state of disaster was declared in flood-stricken areas.
Ashley and Judy Brown, of Pukekohe, were flown out of Denarau Island yesterday because the roads were washed out.
“It’s bad, really bad – the water’s everywhere and the dam up in the mountain had breached the wall. No one can get in or out there,” Mr Brown said. “We were lucky to get out.”
Mr and Mrs Brown were evacuated with four other New Zealanders and he said a large number of Australians were also being taken off the island.
The resort they were staying at organised the helicopters for the stranded tourists – at a cost of $118 per person.
Mr Brown said he was now battling to get his travel insurance company to pay for the flight.
The helicopters evacuating people off Denarau Island had to be given special permission to fly because of the dangerous weather conditions.
“It was absolutely bucketing down, it was monsoon weather … it was just rain, rain and more rain. It just carried on,” Mr Brown said.
The couple were due to end their week-long holiday yesterday when they were evacuated, which Mr Brown said was lucky because the situation on the island was worsening. They arrived back in Auckland yesterday afternoon.
“We said let’s get out of here – it’s getting too much for us,” Mr Brown said.
Local boatmen were also evacuating people from Denarau Island and taking them to safety.
The Fijian Ministry of Information said no tourists were stranded on any outer islands and confirmed no flights out of Nadi had been disrupted.
The death toll from the floods yesterday stood at two after a man drowned in the northern town of Ba trying to cross a river.
A farmer drowned at the weekend trying to save his pigs in Labasa.
Hundreds of people have been displaced by floodwaters and have taken shelter at the 31 evacuation centres in the west, Fiji Broadcasting reported.
Many more people were expected to flock to the evacuation centres as heavy rain was expected to continue until today.
“Heavy rain still moving in to Nadi region and much more rain is still yet to come.
“It is likely that rain will continue to be heavy at times in the west until at least late tomorrow …
“No short term change is expected to the current situation, and flooding is likely to continue through to the end of tomorrow [Wednesday] at least,” the NaDraki Weather Service reported.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade last night said there were about 400 New Zealanders in Fiji but they had no reason to suspect any of them were in danger.
– By Amelia Wade, NZ Herald