Vanuatu and Fiji Islands - Tropical Cyclone Paula OCHA Situation Report No. 1

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 01 Mar 2001
Ref. OCHA/GVA - 2001/0053
OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Vanuatu and Fiji Islands - Tropical Cyclone Paula
28 February - 1 March 2001

The Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and Fiji Meteorological Service provided the following information, through the OCHA Disaster Response Advisor for the Pacific in Suva, Fiji.

Situation and Damage in Vanuatu

1. Tropical Cyclone PAULA formed to the Northwest of the Torres Islands on 26 February 2001. It strengthened rapidly then crossed the Western side of the Vanuatu Islands from the Northwest to the Southeast from 28 February to 1 March, causing very rough seas, heavy rainfall and sustained winds over 100 km/hr with gusts up to 200 km/hr, particularly affecting the larger islands of Espiritu Santo, Malekula, and Efate, and the smaller islands of Epi and the Shepherds in Central Vanuatu.

2. Police on Santo have reported that a 19 year old boy is missing feared drowned, whilst trying to move his canoe to safety. There are no other reports of casualties.

3. Western Santo experienced some damage due to high winds and flooding in low-lying areas, which necessitated the evacuation of some communities to safer ground. One hundred families were also relocated from flood-prone areas in and around Port Vila on Efate. The homes and subsistence gardens of these communities will have suffered damage as a result, but this is not yet quantified. Trees are down and communication links and water supplies have also been affected in some areas. There is the possibility of greater damage in the Shepherd Group, but this is not yet confirmed because of communications difficulties.

National and International Response in Vanuatu

4. Continuous warnings have been issued by the Vanuatu Department of Meteorology, NDMO, and Broadcasting Corporation, putting each province on alert to evacuate high-risk areas and close schools, public offices and shops as the cyclone approached. Storm warnings remain in force until the danger, particularly to small boats (the main means of transportation on many islands), has passed. There are also secondary threats from further flooding and landslides due to the continuing heavy rain.

5. The National Disaster Committee convened from 28 February to ensure appropriate preparatory and response measures, and the Police Joint Command Headquarters was activated to coordinate the operation round-the-clock. Diplomatic missions and civil society organisations were alerted in briefings about the situation. In Efate, the Port Vila Municipal Authority opened shelters and mobilised its other resources whilst police and military evacuation teams were deployed to assist in the flooded areas of Port Vila, supported by Vanuatu Red Cross Society staff and trained volunteers.

6. Clean-up operations and an assessment of damage and needs are commencing. Preliminary reports indicate that damage across the country is relatively light, but this will not be confirmed until field surveys are completed by provincial councils and line ministries. The possible support requirements are identified as: medical attention and supplies, shelter materials, water containers, seed packets, logistic and financial support.

7. So far, no state of emergency has been declared and the Vanuatu Government has not made any request for international assistance.

8. The French Government is providing tarpaulins, water containers and purification tablets in a helicopter from New Caledonia, which will then be used to conduct an aerial reconnaissance of the Shepherd Group on 2 March.

Forecast in Fiji

9. The eye of Tropical Cyclone PAULA was located near 19.1 South 172.8 East, or about 500 km to the West-Southwest of Nadi in Fiji, at 0500 hours UTC on 1 March. Close to its centre the cyclone is estimated to have average winds of 160 km/hr with momentary gusts to 220 km/hr. It is now moving Southeast at about 25 km/hr but is likely to turn and accelerate to the East-Southeast. On this track, the eye of the cyclone is forecast to pass about 300 km to the Southwest of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. A gale warning is in force for Viti Levu, the Yasawa and Mamanuca Group, Kadavu, Vatulele, Beqa and the Southern Lau Group. A strong wind warning is in force for the rest of Fiji.

10. OCHA is in contact with relevant government authorities in Vanuatu and Fiji through the OCHA Regional Disaster Response Advisor for the Pacific, and will revert with further information when available.

11. This situation report, together with information on other ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23
E-mail: ochagva@un.org

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officers: Mr. R. Mueller / Mr. S. Matsuka, Direct Tel. +41-22-917 31 31 / 40 34

Press contact:
(in GVA) - Mr. Donato Kiniger-Passigli, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53
(in N.Y.) - Ms. Phyllis Lee, direct Tel. +1-212-963 48 32

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

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