Pacific Cyclones Update 29 Jan 2003

Report
from Australian Agency for International Development
Published on 29 Jan 2003
This information was updated at 4.30pm (AEDT) Wednesday 29 January 2003.
AusAID is monitoring the progress of two cyclones, named Beni and Cilla. Cyclone Beni was upgraded today to Category Four. Cyclone Cilla is rated as Category One.

Further large shipments of emergency supplies have arrived in Fiji from Australia and are now being distributed to victims of Cyclone Ami.

AusAID has received from the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Organisation a detailed needs assessment to further assist victims of Cyclone Zoe.

Full details are given below.

1. Cyclone Beni

Australian officials in Canberra, Honiara, Port Vila and Noumea are closely monitoring the progress of Cyclone Beni - now rated Category Four - and stand ready to assist Pacific Governments in assessment of, and response to Cyclone damage.

Tropical Cyclone Beni developed over the Coral Sea, south of Solomon Islands on Saturday 25 January 2003.

Beni, with winds estimated at 100 knots close to its centre, was located 330 NM west-northwest of Port Vila, Vanuatu (16.6S 162.9E) at 2:00pm today (29 January 2003) and is tracking southeast at 7 knots.

At this stage Beni is expected to continue tracking south-southeast between New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

Warnings are now in place for New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

The worst effects of Cyclone Beni were felt on Rennell and Bellona Islands, in the most south-western province of the Solomon Islands.

There have been reports of damage to food crops, coconut trees and some housing. A fresh water lake on Rennell has flooded damaging taro crops.

Radio contact with Rennell and Bellona has not been affected by the Cyclone There have been no reports of fatalities or serious injuries.

Cyclone warnings issued for people living in the south of Guadalcanal and in the Makira and Ulau province have now been lifted by the National Disaster Management Office.

The Australian High Commission in Honiara has no record of Australians in the cyclone-affected area.

2. Cyclone Cilla

Cyclone Cilla was first identified on 27 January 2003. The Cyclone is currently rated Category One and is located in open waters east of the Kingdom of Tonga.

The cyclone is tracking east-southeast at 10 knots, moving further away from the group and is expected to intensify slowly moving east and later southeast.

Australian officials in Canberra, Nuku'alofa and Suva continue to monitor Cyclone Cilla and stand ready to assist Pacific Islands Governments with their assessment of, and response to cyclone damage.

The cyclone passed over central Tonga northeast of Nuku'alofa on 27 January 2003.

The Kingdom of Tonga's National Disaster Management Office has indicated the Cyclone has not caused any significant damage.

There have been reports of minor damage to buildings and crops, but power has not been reported as affected.

Radio contact has been made with the main Ha'apai island of Lifuka but some problems have been experienced communicating with other islands in the groups.

Warnings remain for strong winds with gusts of up to 30 knots, thunderstorms and flooding in low lying areas but gale warning previously in force for the Ha'apai group has now been cancelled.

Fiji's National Disaster Management Office has reported heavy rain from Cyclone Cilla has caused some flash flooding however no significant damage has been reported.

There have been no reports of fatalities or serious injuries. There have been no reports of Australian citizens affected by the cyclone.

3. Cyclone Ami

To date, total Australian assistance committed to Fiji in response to Cyclone Ami amounts to around $630,000. Two cargo charter flights, supplemented by capacity on scheduled air services, carried over 6,000 collapsible water containers and around 3,000 tarpaulins to Fiji over the period 25-27 January. Blankets and medical supplies are also being dispatched.

These items are in short supply in Fiji and have been identified by the Fiji Government as urgently required by remote communities affected by the cyclone.

The Australian support includes the $ 40,000 provided to the Fiji Red Cross Society appeal, announced on Friday 17 January by Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer.

These funds will be used by the Fiji Red Cross for communication equipment, water tanks, containers, pumps and generators, family packs and tarpaulins.

Australia has also supported the placement of an officer with the Fiji Red Cross to assist with aid assessment and coordination.

In addition, more than 300,000 water purification tablets (valued at $35,000) are being sent to Fiji for distribution by the Fiji Red Cross.

Immediately following the cyclone, Australia chartered a helicopter to assist in disaster assessment and delivery of emergency supplies to remote communities.

$50,000 has also been made available to the Australian High Commission in Suva for other emergency supplies and relief assistance, to be expended at the discretion of the post. Australia has also contributed about $4,000 ($F5,000) in support of a Fiji national radio emergency relief appeal.

On 23 January the Fiji Government formally requested financial and technical assistance from donor countries for relief and rehabilitation to assist communities affected by Cyclone Ami.

Ground assessments of the villages most affected indicated immediate requirements for clean water and shelter, with an urgent requirement for food on Drua Drua Island. The team reported outbreaks of dengue and leptospirosis and patients presenting with diarrohoea, vomiting and stomach cramps at Labasa Hospital.

The Australian chartered helicopter is currently being used to distribute relief and medical supplies to affected villages inaccessible by road and to undertake further surveillance.

Fiji Red Cross assistance to date has focused on the provision of pre-packed humanitarian emergency family packs containing clothing, cooking utensils, blankets, towels, soap, first aid supplies, tarpaulins and water purification tablets. The relief effort has been concentrated in rural and remote areas where the most vulnerable communities are located.

Donor Coordination

Following the disaster, AusAID initiated and hosted a donor coordination meeting in Suva to discuss the impact of the cyclone and each donors' capacity to provide assistance in the immediate and longer terms. Donor governments represented included Australia, New Zealand, France, United States, Japan, United Kingdom and the European Union.

Subsequent FRANZ meetings have been held to share information on assessments of emergency supply requirements and to coordinate the assistance planned by the three partners (France, Australia and New Zealand).

An assessment of all affected areas was made on 15 January by a Fiji team on a PC Orion aircraft supplied by New Zealand. An AusAID official was part of the assessment team.

The flight reported that impact of Cyclone Ami was less than expected, with most major infrastructure, roads and airstrips intact.

The greatest damage was observed in Northern and Eastern Vanua Levu and Cicia and Vanuavatu Islands in the Lau Group with reports of flooding, crop and vegetation damage and damage to residential property.

Fiji authorities have dispatched field assessment teams to Vanua Levu and the worst affected Islands in the Lau Group along with a medical team and emergency relief supplies (temporary shelter, medical supplies, food and water).

Australia is committed to working closely with Fiji authorities and other donors to support affected people. Officials are in regular contact should additional Australian assistance be required.

In anticipation of the request for emergency assistance, Australia indicated to the Fiji Government a list of key items such as tarpaulins and water containers which could be deployed at short notice from an AusAID emergency stores depot in Sydney.

Two Canberra-based AusAID emergencies response officers have been deployed to Fiji (for 7 days each) to assist coordination of the relief effort.

Fiji authorities were quick to respond to the initial disaster with reports and warnings issued widely and regularly throughout Fiji.

The Fiji National Emergency Operations Centre has reported 19 confirmed deaths.

There have been no reports of Australian citizens affected by the cyclone.

4. Cyclone Zoe - Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

Solomon Islands

Australia welcomed confirmation there were no deaths or serious injuries to the populations affected by Cyclone Zoe.

To date, Australia has provided the following assistance: the RAAF surveillance flights (valued at around $190,000), fuel for the patrol boat 'Auki' ($19,000), $50,000 for food, water containers, additional fuel and tools and a further $50 000 to assist in meeting the costs of the relief vessel 'Hamakyo Maru' and its cargo and the operations of the National Disaster Management Office. Medical supplies and HF radios have also been funded by the Australian aid program and dispatched to the islands

We are have now received a detailed needs assessment from the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Organisation and will continue to support its relief effort.

Zoe was categorised as a Category 5 storm, which denotes the highest level of destruction and damage.

Vanuatu

Following an assessment of damage in Vanuatu caused by Cyclone Zoe, France, Australia and New Zealand are coordinating their responses under the provisions of the FRANZ agreement.

Following a request from the Vanuatu Government, the Australian Government agreed to provide funds to the Government of Vanuatu to assist with the immediate needs on the island of Tanna up to a level of VT3.75 million (AUD50,000).

These funds will be used towards purchase by FRANZ of 2,500 bags of rice and disaster recovery tools for the people of Tanna.