The Category Two cyclone is strengthening and is expected to move along the southern Viti Levu coast early tomorrow morning.

New Zealand Red Cross is closely monitoring the situation, as cyclone paths are often unpredictable during an El Nino season, and Cyclone Zena could change course or further intensify.

Eighty Fiji Red Cross volunteers are on standby to help those affected by the flooding, as soon as roads reopen. In the meantime, Red Cross is advising people to boil drinking water and stay out of flood waters to avoid the risk of water-borne disease.

New Zealander, Corinne Ambler who is working with Red Cross in Fiji says key priorities for those being affected by the latest cyclone will be clean drinking water and emergency shelter.

“People have moved to higher ground and evacuation centres and are battening down the hatches. In terms of the Red Cross response, we are on standby to move as soon as roads reopen. However it could be could be Friday or Saturday before this is possible.

“Fijians are resilient people who have been through a lot recently, but the damage caused by Cyclone Winston means their ability to cope will be pushed to the limit as Cyclone Zena bears down.”

Cyclone Zena is expected to pass within around 50 km of the densely populated Suva urban area and has the potential to be extremely hazardous.

A 30-day State of Natural Disaster in Fiji has been extended by 30 days to 19 April.

A gale warning is in place for all land areas over the Mamanucas, Kadavu, Vatulele, Beqa, and all of Viti Levu including nearby smaller islands, with all residents in those areas advised to put up their cyclone shutters and prepare for likely power and water disruptions.

Already swollen rivers are likely to rise rapidly ahead of the next high tide later this afternoon.

Flooding is expected to worsen through the day across the west. Flood levels will be higher today than they were Monday and extreme flooding is anticipated over much of the west and north of Viti Levu and northern Vanua Levu. Further flooding, while perhaps less severe but still extremely hazardous, is likely to affect the central and eastern divisions today.

The towns of Nadi and Rakiraki have been without power for two days and are cut off by floodwater. Water levels are also rising in Ba, Tavua and Sigatoka towns and in many remote villages. More than 3,500 people are sheltering in 79 evacuation centres in the Western and Central divisions.

New Zealand Red Cross has been providing assistance and relief support in the wake of Cyclone Winston and is at hand in Fiji to provide further help if necessary. Seven New Zealanders, who are working as Red Cross aid workers, are on the ground in Fiji.

New Zealand Red Cross also has relief supplies at its Auckland warehouse ready to deploy to Fiji if required.

The Fiji Government estimates that almost 350,000 people, or 40 percent of the country’s population, were affected by Cyclone Winston, which devastated Fiji just over six weeks ago.

The storm, which was the strongest tropical cyclone to ever make landfall in Fiji, left 44 dead and damaged or destroyed up to 90 percent of homes in some villages.

Red Cross New Zealand Secretary General Tony Paine says Fiji Red Cross is a very strong organisation, who were well prepared for Cyclone Winston and worked tirelessly to help those affected.

“With Fiji so recently devastated by Cyclone Winston, we know this will be an incredibly difficult time for many people.

“New Zealanders were incredibly supportive of Fiji in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston, with the Red Cross sending our largest ever deployment of relief supplies, with support from the New Zealand government. We are proud to support and stand by the Fiji Red Cross during this time.”

How to help

Kiwis can help efforts on the ground by donating to the Fiji appeal.

New Zealand Red Cross does not accept clothing, food or other goods, as they can clog up airports and ports and distract humanitarian workers from more important tasks. Cash is more easily collected, transferred, distributed and accounted for.

Media contacts

To arrange interviews with New Zealand Red Cross aid workers in Fiji or for more information, contact:

Corinne Ambler, in Fiji

Regional Communications Delegate, Pacific

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

+679 998 0166 corinne.ambler@ifrc.org @corinneambler

Or

Hanna Butler

Communications Manager

New Zealand Red Cross Rīpeka Whero Aotearoa

+64 27 836 5529 @hannarosebutler