Severe floods in Fiji have left five dead, 11,000 in shelters, and nearly 3,000 tourists stranded in the Pacific island nation's second major flooding disaster in 2012.
Tropical Cyclone Daphne lashed Fiji's largest and most populous island, Viti Levu, earlier this week with strong winds and heavy rains.
Rains that began last week swamped homes, washed out roads, and forced the temporary closure of Nadi International Airport, the main international gateway to Fiji.
Officials recorded 11,772 people forced into evacuation centers on Monday, though several returned home Tuesday to assess the damage. Meanwhile, the government is working to restore electricity and vital infrastructure like bridges while also delivering fresh drinking water to residents.
Fiji's permanent secretary of tourism said the country's tourism areas were not as badly affected because they tended to be more sheltered from the storm. Flight disruptions, however, left around 3,000 visitors -- mainly from Australia and New Zealand -- stranded over the weekend before regular flight service resumed on Monday evening.
Officials reported a slight backlog in flights out Tuesday afternoon after days of disruptions.
Nadi International Airport, which serves about 1.2 million passengers a year, became a shelter Sunday and Monday as frustrated tourists slept on airport benches waiting for the first flights out.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised its country's citizens planning to fly into Fiji to reconsider their need to travel.
Yet many who did reconsider their need to travel found that doing so could be costly.
It has been said that the island isn't in any state or form for more tourists so why in the world would people like myself not get a full refund, said Rebecca Camilleri of Melbourne. I'm told its okay to go, it's all clearing up.
Camilleri and 15 others were headed to Fiji on holidays but reconsidered. I wasn't going to risk my children's life for a holiday, she said.
When she went to her travel agent requesting a refund, the agent informed her that the wholesalers said the island was fine and no full refund would be given. She said her travel insurance also told her she was unable to claim back money because she would be canceling herself.
I don't understand what the state of the island has to be like for us to reserve our money back in full, she lamented.
Over the weekend, stricken tourists in Fiji raised concerns about food shortages, clean water, and electricity in damaged hotels. Some resorts even helicoptered guests out to safer locations.
There is no water, food is running out, we are on generator power, and the situation is critical, Anna Dennis, whose family was holed up at the Shangri La hotel on Yanuca Island, told Melbourne's Herald Sun on Sunday.
Fiji is a popular destination for both Australians and New Zealanders and was particularly busy for the week leading up to Easter.
Though several tourists remained stranded Tuesday, most were able to catch flights out on Monday as airlines sent in extra aircraft to handle the logjam.
Fiji has not called for international assistance, but Australia and New Zealand said Monday they are ready to help.
Both regional powers have had a fractured relationship with Fiji since naval officer Voreqe Bainimarama took power in a 2006 military coup. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the nation would work with non-government agencies rather than the regime while Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Canberra would provide up to $1 million to support disaster relief efforts.
Tafazul Gani, a correspondent for a Fijian magazine, told Australia's ABC that the damage in Nadi is extensive.
Basically, if you look at the town, the town is totally decimated. It actually looks like a warzone, he said.
There is not a single shop in the town which has not been affected. Some shops actually have nothing left. Everything that was in the shop, the counter, the merchandise, everything got washed away.
Fijian authorities are now cracking down on unsanitary practices amid fears that disease could quickly spread through the country's evacuation centers.
We are seriously concerned about the state of evacuation centers, said Divisional Health Inspector Dip Chand while addressing heads of government at an emergency operations center briefing in Lautoka on Monday. We have to put in place strategies that will prevent outbreaks and contain diseases if they do exist at these centers. We have to ensure that we do not reach the crisis level.
Floodwaters are now beginning to recede enough that locals can begin what will likely be a long and costly clean-up.