FOR about 20 years the people of Vitogo and Naviyago in Lautoka crossed the Vitogo river using boats.
Sometimes they were forced to swim, putting lives at risk.
But the situation changed this week.
The two villages with a population of about 300 can safely cross the river following the opening of the Tokyo bridge by Japanese ambassador Eiichi Oshima.
Funded by the Japanese Government, the reinforced Tokyo bridge cost about $200,000 and now provides a safe passage and a conVitogo district representative Levani Raisowalo said the crossing provided relief for the residents of the area
"For more than 20 years people were crossing the river, some of them by boat but others just swam across," he said.
"The river sometimes would have strong currents but even that would not stop people from crossing because they needed to get to work and school."
Mr Oshima said after witnessing the suffering of the villagers in the aftermath of the devastating 2012 floods, the government of Japan decided to help reinforce the bridge that was destroyed during the floods.
"Even in the months following the disaster, the villagers had to either risk their lives to cross the river or had to take a long detour just to be able to access basic services in the city," he said.
This project was prioritised under the embassy of Japan.