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Fiji Time: 6:52 PM on Saturday 19 April

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Service at a standstill

Felix Chaudhary
Friday, January 31, 2014

HEAVY rain in the Western Division overnight caused widespread flooding, disrupting the movement of people and vehicles and forcing the closure of schools and businesses.

By 7pm a total of 283 people were being housed in 20 evacuation centres that had been activated from Sigatoka to Rakiraki.

Nadi recorded the highest number with 11 centres opened.

Last night DISMAC in Lautoka reported no casualty but continued to advise those living near rivers and bridges to evacuate.

Commissioner Western Commander Joeli Cawaki said the 6am to 6pm restriction in movement was because rivers burst their banks in Nadi and Rakiraki, and rose to precarious levels in Ba and Tavua.

At 6pm the water level was at 5.25 metres and rising. The height at which the Nadi River breaks its banks is 5.6m

When this edition went to press the water level in the Nadi River was still rising.

At the height of the 2012 floods, the Nadi River peaked at 6.53m in January and 8.18m in March.

Many waited with bated breath for the 6pm high tide, memories of the twin disasters of 2012 still fresh in their minds.

In Nadi, which recorded the highest rainfall in the division, shops closed early as business owners moved their stocks to higher grounds. Bus services ground to a halt and domestic flights disrupted. A total of 30 roads were closed in the West because of flooding or damage to crossings.

The good news is the weather office has forecasted clear weather in the west last night and the Fiji group by tomorrow evening.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has said all schools in the Western Division would remain closed until further notice.

Ministry media liaison officer David Ali said school heads in other parts of the country were also advised to use their discretion and to observe weather conditions in their respective areas.

"We are asking school heads in other parts of the country to look at the weather and make decisions based on the safety of schoolchildren," he said.