Cyclone Heta updated 6 Jan 2004
Australia stands ready, in coordination with FRANZ partners, France and New Zealand, to assist any Pacific Nation in assessment of, and response to, damage caused by the cyclone.
At 8.00am (AEDT), Tuesday 6 January, Cyclone Heta, a category four cyclone, was about 170 nautical miles northwest of Niue and 160 nautical miles northeast of Vava'u, Tonga.
Overnight, Cyclone Heta passed close to the Tongan Islands of Tafahi and Niuatoputapu. Local authorities are currently assessing damage.
Moving southeast at 15 knots, the cyclone is likely to impact Niue in the next six to 12 hours.
Damage from Cyclone Heta is being reported from Samoa, Wallis and Tokelau.
Samoa is reporting moderate to locally severe damage from wind, flash flooding and strong tidal surges as well as difficulties with communications between islands.
Power has been affected for most of the Wallis Group with widespread damage reported to crops and coastal flooding of low-lying areas.
Damage to Tokelau is reported to be minimal.
No assistance has been requested from Australia at this stage and there are no reports of Australian Citizens affected by the cyclone.
Cyclone warnings in the region have been in force for over 48 hours.
More detailed information on Cyclone Heta can be found at: https://metoc.npmoc.navy.mil//jtwc.html (Joint Typhoon Warning Service, Hawaii) http://www.met.gov.fj/advisories.html (Fiji Meteorological Service, Suva)
How Australia Responds to Emergencies
Before Australia can take direct action, the affected country must make an official request for assistance. To take action uninvited would breach international protocols and display a lack of respect for the affected country's sovereignty.
AusAID is nevertheless active from the moment it learns of a disaster to ensure that we are best positioned to rapidly deliver assistance to those in need, should it be requested.
When AusAID learns of a disaster or receives a disaster alert, an AusAID Emergency Officer in Canberra is tasked with gathering information and assessing the situation.
AusAID consults with a range of people who might include the Australian High Commission/Embassy in the affected country, the United Nations, senior AusAID staff, Emergency Management Australia and representatives from France and New Zealand, with whom we jointly respond to many of the disasters that occur in the Pacific.
If assistance from other government departments such as the Australian Defence Force or Emergency Management Australia is required, AusAID also seeks the approval of the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs for funds to provide the necessary assistance. The Ministers of other government departments are consulted concurrently for the approval of their involvement in the response.
When AusAID receives a request for assistance by an overseas government, it can respond directly through the actions of its own staff in Canberra or at an Embassy/High Commission in the affected country or with Emergency Management Australia. The approach depends on the individual circumstances of the emergency including the assistance requested and the specific response offered by Australia.
AusAID may also request advice from non-government organisations on their ability to provide staff and assistance for the response.
AusAID continues to monitor events and consult with key stakeholders until the emergency ends.
How you can Help
The best way to help in response to an appeal from an affected nation is through the donation of money to credible non-government overseas aid organisations that have extensive experience in relief operations.
These organisations usually have qualified people already working in the countries who understand the situation, the culture and local languages. They also know where to buy basic goods at the cheapest price and ensure that as much money as possible is spent on the goods or services the people need.
The Australian Government also works in cooperation with international and domestic relief agencies to improve preparedness and risk reduction strategies, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.
Key organisations include:
United Nations High Commissioner for
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
International Federation of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross
Medecins Sans Frontieres
Australian NGO members of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA)
World Food Programme
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
World Health Organisation