Clean water priority for Fiji

(NZ Defence Force)
(NZ Defence Force)

The death toll in Fiji has risen to 29 after another eight bodies were found, but there are fears the toll will climb even higher.

More than 8000 people are still sheltering in evacuation centres, many of whom have no idea whether they even have homes to return to.

Aid workers say their priority in helping locals is to supply fresh water and shelter.

"The initial urgent needs are clean fresh food, shelter -- so tarpaulins for people who don't have shelter because their houses have been destroyed -- and food," says Tearfund's John Watson.

"We've got a plan with the Government and other humanitarian organisations to make sure that when we do deliver aid it's done in a good way. So water, shelter and food, we're hoping to get out there in the next couple of days."

Mr Watson says many people who lost their homes are still in shock.

"For a lot of families and these communities in which we're working, they were poor and vulnerable before the cyclone hit and now without access to fresh water, and with health risks to do with unclean water being around with the flooding, there's a real need there."

He says the situation seems "overwhelming" and is appealing for assistance from anyone who can help.

Earlier today, a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Hercules arrived in the country to deliver 12 tonnes of relief supplies.

"We have brought emergency supplies including tool kits, generators, water and water containers, ration packs and chainsaws for families affected by the cyclone," said Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy.

"An inter-agency joint reconnaissance team that includes NZDF personnel are now on the ground assisting the government of Fiji in assessing the impact of the cyclone and the needs in affected communities. We stand ready to provide further assistance if required."

A NZDF Orion has also been deployed to the country, assisting with aerial surveillance in the country's northern outlying islands

Prime Minister John Key has pledged financial aid for the clean-up, but with communication still non-existent in many parts of the country the full extent of the damage is not yet known.

Newshub reporter Melissa Davies, who is in Fiji, says the level of destruction there shows just how "fierce and ferocious" the storm was.

She says Newshub was the first to visit the outer island of Malake today, where people are desperate for aid. The island has a population of 1300 and almost all of the 140 houses have been completely destroyed.