Located in the South Pacific Ocean, Fiji has experienced an increase in the frequency and severity of flash floods in recent years. These are claiming the lives of many people, damaging properties and infrastructure, putting back decades of development, and disrupting businesses and livelihoods.
Fiji's landscape includes volcanic mountains up to 1,300 metres high, river systems, plateaus, lowlands, coastal plains, and coral shores. The country's geological characteristics make it prone to severe flash flooding that can cause significant damage to the agricultural sector as well as to housing and businesses.
square-kilometre surface area of Fiji spread across some 3,000,000 square kilometres in the South Pacific
people make up the population of this Small Island Developing State
separate islands and more than 500 islets make up this island nation, of which some 100 islands are inhabited. The capital, Suva, is on the southeast coast of the largest island, Viti Levu; with most of the population living here and on the second-largest island, Vanua Levu.
IMPACTS OF TROPICAL CYCLONE WINSTON
Fiji is now being hit by stronger and more frequent storms, due to climate change.
In February 2016, Fiji was hit by Tropical Cyclone Winston, an extremely destructive Category 5 cyclone, and the strongest to ever hit this Pacific Islands nation. The significant damage it caused, as per the Government of Fiji, included:
wind gust peaks, while maximum average wind speeds reached 233km/hour – making Winston one of the most powerful cyclones ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.
people, equivalent to 62 percent of the country’s total population, impacted by the storm.
of the nation’s population lost power, including the entire island of Vanua Levu.
people required immediate assistance, while entire communities were destroyed.
houses, 495 schools and 88 health clinics and medical facilities were damaged or destroyed.
of Fiji's population had their livelihoods compromised by the large-scale destruction of agricultural crops, on which they depend.
US$ 900 000 000
in total disaster effects, including US$ 600 million in damages and US$ 300 million in losses.
The devastation of Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016, was followed by other severe weather events.
In February 2017, parts of the country's Nadi area were underwater as continual heavy rain created multiple flash flooding events.
In April of 2018, Tropical Cyclone Josie brought torrential weekend rains and flooding in the town of Ba on the island of Viti Levu, causing fatalities and significant property damage.
In December 2019, Tropical Cyclone Sarai battered the country with strong winds and gusts up to 150km/h and heavy rain cause loss of life and damage to property. More than 2,500 people had to be moved to 70 evacuation centres.
Flash Flood Guidance System for Fiji
Early warning systems and services play a critical role in helping communities react to flash flood threats. The Flash Flood Guidance System for Fiji (Fiji FFGS) has been developed with funding from the Climate Risk & Early Warning System (CREWS) initiative and Environment and Climate Change Canada, and is implemented by WMO and the Hydrological Research Center.
Launch in 2019, the Fiji FFGS supplements existing systems for monitoring and early warning for floods in the Fiji Islands. It is built on the Global Flash Flood Guidance System and provides the Fiji Meteorological Service’s weather experts with the capacity to generate and issue operational flash flood forecasts and warnings with improved lead-time and which are site specific.
“We are now fine tuning our tools to be able to forecast these floods, and as a result of this we hope to be able to keep our people safe and save our infrastructure, save the people in this country.” – Jone Usamate, Minister for National Disaster Management, Fiji
As an Implementing Partner of the Climate Risk & Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative, together with the World Bank / GFDRR and UNDRR, WMO has provided strategic and technical support towards the successful implementation of the Fiji FFGS.
This assistance includes:
- Supporting the design, development, and implementation of the system
- Training programmes
- Collaboration between the Fiji Meteorological Service and disaster risk management organizations, and where appropriate, cooperation and inter-operability of the Fiji FFGS project with other regional projects
- Facilitating the use of products and information generated in aggressively reducing exposure to disaster risk and improving disaster risk management in Fiji.
With the Fiji Flash Flood Guidance System now in place, the nation's nearly one million people have access to an effective early warning system that will support the preparation and response to severe flash floods – and significantly save lives and livelihoods.