HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Leaving Fiji
Shona Pitt and Bernadette Teremoana recount their experience in leaving a flooded Fiji.

The Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) office in Suva Fiji resembled a refugee center as they played host to media representatives from the Pacific who were stranded in Fiji due to the floods last week. Members of Pacific Media organizations including Shona Pitt and Bernadette Teremoana of Cook Islands Television were in Fiji to attend the PINA – Pacific Islands News Association general meeting held at Pacific Harbor.
The delegates were transferred to Suva to a safe location and were hosted by ONOC with the organization picking up the tab for their accommodation until the situation was deemed safe for them to travel to Nadi for their flights out of Fiji.
Extremely grateful for the assistance from ONOC, President Dr Robin Mitchell, Dennis Miller Executive Director and their staff, Pitt said they along with the two delegates from Niue did attempt to drive to Nadi on Saturday morning only to be turned back at Sigatoka one hours drive from the airport as the road was at least two meters under water and un-passable. Disappointed to be so close to Nadi Pitt said there was no other alternative but to return to Suva to wait it out.
“It was quite chaotic really as no-one knew what was going on or when the roads would be cleared and the local flights to Nadi were booked out plus there were power cuts in Suva due to a landslide. On one hand we were desperate just to get out of the place and go home and on the other hand we felt so sorry for the people in the western district who had suffered so much loss. On top of that we heard that a cyclone was coming and no one knew what the situation would be like if that struck Nadi as well.”
Once the word came through that the roads were opened and their flights home were confirmed Pitt said ONOC organized through the PINA officials to transport the delegates to Nadi.
“There was just that window of opportunity for us to get to Nadi to catch our flight at 6pm to New Zealand, and it was quite surreal as driving up to Nadi the sun was shining and people were out and about. However all along the Coral Coast there was evidence of the damage caused by the flooding with rivers full of debris and people drying all their bedding and household goods. The closer we got to Nadi it got worse and we passed people who had erected lean-tos on the side of the highway just sticks with tarpaulin and they were sheltering under there. Make shift homes. Bridges were smashed .We drove past people washing their clothes in drains and at burst water mains just trying to get the mud off everything. Nadi is just a mess still flooded and just mud everywhere.”
Nadi airport was full of travelers anxious to leave the country and while their flights were booked and confirmed there were tourists who were trying to purchase tickets over the counter to leave Fiji.
“The Air New Zealand ground staff was most helpful and patient as well as other airport staff from the customs officers to the immigration officers. I did feel guilty leaving, felt like I was leaving a sinking ship however with the wind picking up I didn’t really want to hang around any longer and get caught up in the cyclone.”
Amongst the last to board the Air New Zealand triple 7 aircraft Pitt and Teremoana were upgraded to first class.
“We got such a surprise when we were told to go on upstairs and with all the air traveling that I have done that had to be the best flight I have ever been on. Without wanting to sound like an ad for Air New Zealand, I must say that once I walked onto that aircraft I knew that I was in safe hands and at home. It was such a relief to be onboard that plane and no matter what I wasn’t getting off that plane again until I got to Auckland. We were absolutely spoilt by the Air New Zealand cabin crew; forget sending in the army just send in Air New Zealand.
So, thank you Air New Zealand, thank you PINA and thank you to Doc Mitchell, Dennis, the wonderful ladies at the ONOC Office in Fiji, and most of all thank you to the people of Fiji who made our extended stay as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. -Shona Pitt

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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