Australia donates $7 million to aid cyclone-hit Fiji

Australia donates $7 million to aid cyclone-hit Fiji

SYDNEY - Australia said on Monday it would donate A$10 million ($7.1 million) to fund relief efforts in Fiji, where more than 60,000 people are sheltering in evacuation centres more than a week after the Pacific island nation was hit by its worst cyclone.

Tropical Cyclone Winston, the worst ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, brought wind gusts of up to 325 kph (200 mph), and wreaked devastation, killing at least 42 people, with fears the toll could rise.

The funds, earmarked to provide food, clean water and shelter to communities, take to A$15 million the aid Australia has provided so far, besides teams of emergency aid workers.

"We will work closely with Fijian authorities to make urgent repairs to schools, medical clinics, and basic infrastructure," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement. "The Australian government will also provide further support to respond to urgent health needs."

Aid agencies said Fiji, with a population of 900,000, is in desperate need of assistance, as emergency workers wend their way to remote islands where thousands of people live in tin or wooden shacks in low-lying areas.

UNICEF said more than 62,000 people remain in 875 evacuation centres, with around 40 per cent of Fiji's population directly affected by Cyclone Winston.

The key task is to ensure food and water supplies to all, aid workers said, as the after effects of the cyclone are likely to be drawn out over months. "Women and girls also remain at risk of life-threatening health and nutrition problems," said Charlie Damon, head of CARE Australia's emergency response team in Fiji.

Many women, worried over crop damage, fear for long-term food supply to their communities, he added, saying, "They will be trying to rebuild their gardens to grow food again."

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