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Archived News: January 2020

From Radio New Zealand (21 January 2020)

Post-cyclone: Fiji govt to consider relocating Rotuma wharf

The Oinafa Wharf in Rotuma could be relocated if recommendations delivered to the Fiji government are adopted.

Tino cyclone damage

Damage near Oinafa Wharf on Rotuma. Photo: Facebook / Christine Ravoi

The wharf is out of operation after it was damaged during Cyclone Tino on Friday.

Rotumans have since taken to social media calling for the relocation of the wharf to the other side of the island at Motusa.

The Director of Fiji's National Disaster Management Office, Vasiti Soko, said it would look into the relocation once it received an assessment report from the local commissioner.

"That plan was brought to the minister's briefing this morning. The [Fiji Roads Authority] will still have to go back and put together the proposal and table it back. But otherwise we have been advised of the alternative route to actually place the wharf elsewhere."

The Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) was preparing a team to head to Rotuma, but Ms Soko could not say how long the wharf would be out of action.

There are about 1600 people living on the island.

Rotumans' travel plans should not be affected because flights were operating to and from the island as Malhaha Airport was not damaged during the cyclone.

"Ships can also travel to Rotuma but we will have to use a barge to transport passengers to and from the ship to the island," she said.

"The FRA is working this week and next week to fix the structural damage on the bridge at the wharf."

Tino cyclone damage

Damage near Oinafa Wharf on Rotuma. Photo: Facebook / Christine Ravoi

Ms Soko also said 13 schools, used as evacuation centres in the northern and eastern parts of the country, had been temporarily closed.

She said health officials had conducted disinfection spraying of the centres to ensure they were ready as the school year began this week.

"Prior to the evacuees vacating the schools, the health officers visited their homes to ensure they were safe for them to return home," she said.

Ms Soko also said the search for a father and daughter was continuing after they were swept away by strong currents in Serua on Thursday.

"Recovery efforts have been hampered by poor visibility and strong currents in the Navua River," she said.

Ms Soko said food security in the northernmost part of Vanua Levu also remained a concern for authorities.

An assessment was being carried out by the Agriculture Ministry to determine the amount of food rations required to assist the affected communities in the area.

Ms Soko said a report on the extent and cost of damage caused by Cyclone Tino should be compiled by the end of the month.

Niue vegetable farm wrecked by Cyclone Tino

Meanwhile, a commercial vegetable grower in Niue is angry at the lack of warnings about Cyclone Tino during the weekend.

James Douglas' Niue Fresh hydronics farm was battered by 100km/hr winds on Friday evening.

The damage to the facility housing the vegetables would drastically cut production over the next six weeks, he said.

When there was a major storm threat, Mr Douglas said his business was reliant on the red, blue and yellow warnings from the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO).

However, those warnings did not come through.

"In this case it stayed blue, in fact it didn't move off blue the whole time. It wasn't until Friday night about 10 o'clock we realised that that wasn't blue anymore. In our minds it had moved well past yellow and I couldn't exactly get the crews to come up and start messing around with 100km winds gusting through."

From Fiji Times Online (17 January 2020)

TC Tino: Rotuma's Oinafa wharf partly damaged

By Talebula Kate

THE Oinafa wharf in the district of Oinafa in Rotuma has been partly damaged.

According to the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), this is due to the heavy swells and storm surge caused by Tropical Cyclone Tino today.

NDMO says the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) will assess and provide further information on the damaged wharf.

Meanwhile, the category one cyclone, with winds of up to 100km/hr is about 300km Northwest of Labasa heading towards the town.

Pictures received from Rotuma this morning showed boulders washed ashore as a result of heavy swells and storm surges.

Oinafa Wharf damaged by cyclone Tino

From (17 January 2020)

Devastating effects of TC Tino already felt in Rotuma

By Vijay Narayan and Naveel Krishant

The devastating effects of Tropical Cyclone Tino is already being felt in Rotuma.

Oinafa Jetty in Rotuma has been badly damaged by storm surges and damaging winds.

A wooden and corrugated iron structure at the jetty is also completely damaged.

We are getting reports from the ground in Rotuma that there are storm surges, sea flooding, damaging winds and heavy rain.

Oinafa wharf damage by cyclone Tino

From the Fiji Sun (7 January 2020)

$100k in Losses, Visitors Stranded

By Frederica Elbourne

Over 150 passengers of a chartered tour to Rotuma are up in arms after they were
stranded for three days by the vessel they paid to bring them to Viti Levu.

The group of travellers, made up of 70 percent visitors from Australia, United States of America and New Zealand, are furious after they were told to find alternative means of travel from the island or wait another two weeks for the ship to return.

Among them was Michael Joe, owner of Joe's Farm Supermarket, who joined the group with his wife for a trip to deliver donated items for the district of Juju. The
entourage, initially comprising 254 passengers, took with them 10 containers of donated items and five vehicles as part of their cargo.

"This holiday has ended in the saddest way," he said yesterday. However,
Patterson Brothers Shipping made the trip to Rotuma.

But, Patterson Brothers Shipping general manager David Patterson said the vessel was unable to berth at Rotuma the day it arrived due to heavy swells.

"On the second day, the vessel berthed at risk during the heavy swells and managed to take all the passengers that were at the wharf.

"The other passengers were late and were not at the jetty when our vessel had to pull out due to the bad conditions," Mr Patterson said.

He said the situation could have been avoided if all passengers were prompt.

"After pulling out at 11:20am, our captain made the decision that the risk was too great to approach the ramp again.

"He advised us and we supported his decision rather than risk the lives of passengers and crew."

Mr Patterson said an extra sailing trip will be scheduled for Rotuma to bring back the remaining passengers and the company's machines on the island.

Meanwhile, Goundar Shipping left for Rotuma last night to collect the remaining 154 passengers who are expected to foot their own travel expenses to the mainland until such time as reimbursement of part of the chartered fees are recovered from Patterson Brothers.

Goundar Shipping owner George Goundar said his company will lose around $70,000 for the trip because the vessel will run empty to Rotuma.

"This is all part of business because we understand people are missing work, and children need to get back to school. The request came from the President's office for me to facilitate," Mr Goundar said.

He said he understood the situation as his vessels, which were franchised to service the Rotuma route, were also damaged while berthing at the jetty in Rotuma.

"It's safest to berth and load during the day at Rotuma, everything has tobe done before sunset, so we have a short loading time," Mr Goundar said.

According to Mr Joe, Goundar will bring back passengers to Suva while Patterson Shipping is expected to bring back cargo from the island.

Mr Joe and his wife joined the group for the Christmas tour to Rotuma which was scheduled to return to Suva past Saturday.

However, Patterson Brothers Shipping Company who were chartered for the trip, left Rotuma with only 100 passengers of the 254 passengers.

Mr Joe was stranded on the island with other passengers and made arrangements to fly in to Suva to make arrangements for a vessel to bring the remaining group to the mainland.

He said Patterson Brothers Shipping Company was commissioned in late December to take passengers to and to bring them from Rotuma this month after they had delivered items donated items for the development of Juju.

His wife helped raise $70,000 with her family for school children of Juju.
Mr Joe said Patterson Brothers told him to make alternative arrangements for the remaining group or wait another two weeks for the vessel to return to the island.

In December, the initial group comprised 254 people. When the vessel returned on the chartered date to collect passengers, only 100 managed to board while the vessel was still loading cargo, before the vessel set sail without remaining passengers.

"They just left those passengers stranded on the dock, and did not try to honour the contract," an emotional and irate Mr Joe said.

In his verbal and written correspondence with Patterson Brothers, Mr Joe said jobs were at stake, children had to return to school on the mainland, and visitors from abroad had to rebook their flights out of Fiji.

"It was a chartered tour, fully paid for, and the short fall too of $40,000 that the ship couldn't make up for on the trip was paid for by my wife.We're talking about more than $100,000 in losses," Mr Joe said.

He said passengers waited from 4am to 6pm on Friday for a chance to board the vessel but were told to wait for cargo to be loaded first. Some passengers returned to their lodgings on the island with the intent to return at boarding time.

Passengers at pier in Oinafa