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'Worst nightmares' as Cyclone Zena arrives in Fiji

A flooded Fiji braces for more wild weather from Cyclone Zena. Red Cross aid worker Susan Slattery reports on the desperate effort to keep people safe and dry.

Wednesday April 6, 2016

Nadi floods
Residents of Nadi wade through floodwaters caused by intense rain in the last few days. Cyclone Zena is expected to worsen conditions. Photo: Fijian Government

The newly-formed Tropical Cyclone Zena is expected to hit Fiji tonight as a category three storm, bringing further rain to a flooded, battered country.  

"This is a nation that experienced a major disaster, Cyclone Winston, less than two months ago. We're still in the midst of responding to that disaster," says Susan Slattery, an Australian aid worker supporting Fiji Red Cross.  

"We're not yet at the end of cyclone season and it looks like our worst nightmares have come true. Cyclone Zena has arrived while people still need support from Cyclone Winston, and while there's widespread flooding right across the country."

Heavy rain since last weekend caused in flash flooding in several parts of Fiji. The towns of Nadi and Rakiraki have been without power for days and are cut off by floodwaters, as are many remote villages. Schools have been closed across the country until further notice.  

Cyclone Zena is expected to pass south of Sigatoka on the night of 6 April. Further heavy rain is expected, and weather services predict 'catastrophic' flooding in the coming days.  

In Suva and its branches across the country, Fiji Red Cross is preparing for the worst.  

"Right now Red Cross is pulling together all its manpower to help people affected by Cyclone Winston, but at the same time respond to the floods and prepare for Cyclone Zena," Susan reports.  

Flooding can contaminate water sources. Fiji Red Cross is reminding the public to boil all drinking water, wash all raw food in clean water, wash hands with soap after going to the toilet and before eating.   People are also being warned to stay out of flooded waterways and listen to the radio for weather updates and safety messages.

Red Cross volunteers are working around the clock to help.  

"The volunteers here are blowing my mind," Susan says. "They've been turning up every day since Cyclone Winston, working long hours with a real sense of community. They are committed beyond anything I've ever seen in my life."  

The next few days will be difficult and dangerous, but Susan remains hopeful that the weather will clear soon.  

"Within 24 hours, Cyclone Zena will have passed. Hopefully at some point tomorrow the sun will start shining again, people will be back in the streets and Red Cross can get back out and do what it does best."