Fiji's flash flood forecasting a first for the Pacific

Fiji is on track to implement a $2 million tala Flash Flood Guidance System (F.F.G.S.) before the next cyclone season, making it the first country in the Pacific with the capacity to forecast emergency inundations nation-wide.

Misaele Funaki, the Director for Meteorological Service, said Fiji is the first island in the Pacific to implement such a system at the national level. 

He said the system is a timely boost for the meteorological service given Fiji’s vulnerability to flash floods during heavy rainfall.

The system requires a lot of up-to-date data to forecast flood waters and alert people to better prepare themselves, according to Mr. Funaki. 

“Before you can only hear about a cyclone coming and the water level rising every hour, but you can never forecast it," he said. 

"This system will give you the ability to provide forecast.” 

Mr. Funaki was part of the Fifth Pacific Meteorological Council Meeting that concluded in Samoa yesterday, where he presented on Fiji’s progress in implementing the system:

“Right now our [Fiji geographic] data is good, but in three [to] four years’ time there might be some more developments in those catchments that normally get flooded, so there is a need for us to continually update data in order the system to work fine."

He said Fiji is currently focusing on upskilling its met officials to familiarise themselves with the system before it becomes operational:

“In two weeks’ time seven of our people will be travelling to a hydrological research center in San Diego, they will be taught how the system works and how they can operate it from a national level.” 

The global flood guidance system for Fiji was developed by W.M.O. and funded through the Climate Risk & Early Warning Systems (C.R.E.W.S.). 

Papua New Guinea is the only other country implementing the system in the Pacific but at the regional level.

Myanmar in Asia and Fiji are the only two islands developing the system at the national level. 

The Fiji Sun reported that five people died in the country’s Western Division in April this year as a result of flash flood that followed torrential rainfall brought by Tropical Cyclone Josie.

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