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In Fiji, heavy rains, flooding force 1000s to emergency shelters

Flooding in the main street of the town of Rakiraki near Fiji’s capital, Suva, December 19, 2016

Thousands of people in the South Pacific island of Fiji have been sheltered in evacuation centers and tents after heavy rains and floods cut roadways, covered sugarcane fields and prompted landslides.

Director of the archipelago country’s National Disaster Management Office Akapusi Tuifagalele announced on Tuesday that 1,716 people sought refuge in 46 evacuation centers across the nation and 1,817 more were staying in erected tents.

A flooded river in the town of Nausori caused major chaos for local residents as shown by broadcast video clips.

The main road joining the capital Suva with the international airport at Nadi was cut off by floodwaters, said a Suva police spokeswoman.

Fiji's Meteorological Service announced in a bulletin that the tropical depression causing the heavy rain was now weakening.

The worst-hit regions in western Fiji were still recovering from last February's destructive Cyclone Winston, an aid worker said. The cyclone killed 43 people in Fiji and left tens of thousands of residents homeless. It was described as the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

Fiji's weather bureau expects "elevated" cyclone activity in the region this season and predicts three cyclones to strike the archipelago.

Cyclones typically sweep through the tropical Pacific between November and April, with the peak season between January and March.

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