Fijian holiday from hell
BATTERED by gale-force winds, chest-deep in water and with a suitcase balanced on his head was not how Bundaberg man Robert Ephraims imagined his holiday to Fiji.
It was a vastly different Fiji to the paradise of white sand and golden sunsets they had seen advertised in tourism brochures.
A state of emergency was declared on Sunday as flash floods claimed at least three lives and forced 8000 people to seek refuge in evacuation centres.
Mr Ephraims and his partner Diana Ambrutiene were among the lucky ones who secured flights home as floodwater and powerful wind gusts wreaked havoc across the South Pacific nation.
"Houses were getting knocked over, the rain was belting down any which way and the wind sounded like a jet engine," Mr Ephraims said.
"I asked the resort manager whether the SES would be coming in to help us and he said 'what's that?"
The couple arrived in Fiji last Sunday morning and enjoyed four peaceful days in a beachside resort about 8km from the city of Nadi, on the main island of Viti Levu.
By Thursday, torrential rain and powerful wind gusts were buffeting the region.
By Friday morning they had resolved to return to Australia.
"Food and supplies were running out, people were fishing in the driveway of our resort and the only access road into town was completely destroyed," Mr Ephraims said.
With substantial damage to road infrastructure, tourists at the resort were forced to walk along the swollen coastline to reach higher ground.
Mr Ephraims recalled turning around to see a long procession of westerners, sodden and frightened, with luggage perched on their heads, behind him.
"It was a pretty sorry sight," he said.
"It looked like the end of the world with all these tourists walking through the sea.
"I wish I had have taken a photo but I was too busy trying to balance and not get knocked over by the winds."
The couple eventually caught a taxi to the Nadi International Airport and were able to book Saturday evening flights back to Australia.
When they arrived at Brisbane International Airport in the early hours of Sunday, Mr Ephraims leaned down and kissed the tarmac.
"We just feel sorry for those poor buggers left over there," he said.