A year-round warm tropical climate is one of the main aspects of Fiji that attracts
visitors from all over the world. However, the hot weather, humidity and its South Pacific
location can also lead to dangerous and life-threatening natural disasters, including
cyclones, floods, droughts, earthquakes and tsunamis.
A cyclone is a tropical type of hurricane and is the main and most wide-spread
natural disaster in the Pacific region. Severe tropical storms bring about massive
rainfall and high winds, plus the low pressure may cause the sea to rise as much as 2 meters
(6.5 feet). Destruction of houses, other infrastructure and gardens, loss of
vegetation, flooding, land erosion, coastal inundation, destruction of coral reefs
and sea grass beds, and pollution of water supplies are all effects of cyclones. Fiji's cyclone
season is from November through April.
In December 2007, Cyclone Daman hit the northern part of Fiji with wind
gusts up to 205 kmh (125 mph) and destroyed houses, though none
of the areas affected were heavily populated and no deaths were reported.
Another cyclone, named Cyclone Gene, hit the Fijian city capital of Suva and
surrounding areas with wind gusts up to 185 kmh (115 mph) in January 2008, causing widespread flooding and
blackouts. Eight people were killed directly or indirectly by the storm.
And in December 2012, Cyclone Evan unleashed winds of up to 230 kmh (145 mph) on Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, as well as the area to the west and northwest. The cyclone uprooted trees, destroyed homes and caused widespread power and water outages.
Flooding in Fiji can be the result of cyclones, though it can also occur during
the country's rainy season between November
and April. Fiji also has wet and dry zones, so naturally the wet zones, which are
mostly located in the southeast region of the islands, are more prone to experience
heavy rains and flooding.
One recent instance of flooding in Fiji occurred in January 2009. Four days
of heavy rain poured down on the towns of Nadi, Labasa, Sigatoka and Ba on Viti Levu. The flood damaged roads and bridges
and caused the loss of crops.
Eight people were reported to have been killed, six from drowning and two killed
in a landslide.
The areas that are driest (also called the dry zones) are the lower islands and
leeward areas of the Fiji Islands. These areas are also most vulnerable to droughts. Besides
affecting water supplies, droughts can have a negative impact on agriculture,
which plays an important role in Fiji's economy.
The 1997-98 drought in Fiji caused a F$104 million loss in revenue in the sugarcane industry alone. The Western sides of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu and the Yasawas were the worst hit regions, where 90% of the population received food and water rations. In September 1998 the Fiji Cabinet declared a natural disaster for the prolonged drought.
Earthquakes and Tsunamis
The Fiji Islands are seismically active, which means that they are prone to
experience earthquakes. The greatest danger of earthquakes, especially severe ones,
is the damage and destruction of houses and other infrastructure, as well as natural
structures such as trees.
Sometimes earthquakes can also cause tsunamis. A tsunami is
a series of large waves that can be caused by a sudden motion of the ocean floor. Besides
an earthquake, the sudden motion can also be the result of an underwater landslide
or a powerful volcanic eruption.
One of the most destructive Fijian tsunamis hit Suva on September 14, 1953. It
occurred right after a 6.7 earthquake. It caused major damage and destruction
to the wharf and infrastructure and caused three deaths in Suva, as well as twelve
who had reportedly drowned in Koro and Kadavu. It was determined that the source
of the tsunami was the result of a 60 million cubic meter submarine landslide at
the head of the Suva Canyon.
Another major earthquake (though without a tsunami) occurred on November 17,
1979. It resulted in severe damage and destruction to infrastructure on neighboring
islands and a landslide on the island of Qamea.