Vanuatu and Fiji Islands - Tropical Cyclone Paula OCHA Situation Report No. 2

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 06 Mar 2001
Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2001/0057
OCHA Situation Report No. 2
Vanuatu and Fiji Islands - Tropical Cyclone Paula
6 March 2001

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

Situation and Damage in Vanuatu

1. Tropical Cyclone PAULA passed through Vanuatu from Northwest to Southeast during 28 February to 1 March. Following aerial reconnaissance on 2 March the Vanuatu Government declared Malampa and Shefa provinces in Central Vanuatu to be disaster areas. Malampa province consists of the large island of Malekula, and the smaller islands of Ambrym, Paama and Lopevi. Shefa consists of the larger island Efate, with Port Vila the capital, Epi, and the much smaller Shepherds Island.

2. In these provinces, the Government reports damage to 45-50 % of houses and gardens, 35 % of water supplies, 20 % of schools, 15 % of medical centres and 25 % of other infrastructure.

National and International Response in Vanuatu

3. The National Disaster Committee is coordinating both relief operations and immediate post-disaster assessment. The two provincial authorities and the Departments of Agriculture, Public Works and Health have all deployed sectoral assessment teams to quantify the affects on gardens, plantations and livestock, infrastructure and public health. The Health Department has organized the evacuation of the few serious casualties to hospital. It has also commenced a public awareness campaign on health precautions particularly to avoid waterborne diseases, and is carrying out vaccinations. The Vanuatu Red Cross is on satndby to provide assistance to Ambrym, Paama and the Shepherds.

4. Although the Vanuatu Government has not made an appeal for international assistance, it will accept contributions in cash or kind.

5. The French Government provided the Puma helicopter that conducted the aerial reconnaissance of Malampa and Shefa on 2 March, and has supplied tarpaulins, water containers and purification tablets. Additional quantities of these items are being shipped from New Caledonia and will be dispatched to Southwest Malekula around 10 March.

6. The Australian Government is prepared to replenish the relief stockpiles maintained by the Vanuatu Red Cross.

Relief Needs in Vanuatu

7. A provisional response plan has been put together by the NDMO, based on reports received to date, for implementation through the Joint Police Operations Centre from 7 March. This identifies the total relief requirements as 1,284 tarpaulins, 705 water containers, 1,130 packets of water purification tablets, and 1,573 packets of seeds, nearly half of which are required in Malekula. These items will be supplied by the Vanuatu Government and Vanuatu Red Cross relief stocks, and from the French Government shipment. The detailed sectoral assessments now underway will help to confirm these immediate needs and determine the requirements for longer-term recovery.

Situation and Damage in Fiji

8. After causing damage and one death in Central Vanuatu Tropical Cyclone PAULA crossed south of the Fiji Islands on 1 and 2 March. PAULA was a very compact weather system and the forecast high winds did not eventuate, although as it moved away from Fiji on 3 March the storm intensified until close to the eye there were sustained winds of 170 km/hr with gusts up to 240 km/hr.

9. Although it does not appear to have caused any widespread severe damage during its passage across Fiji, the cyclone worst affected the Yasawa and Mamanuca Group in the Northwest, Southwestern Viti Levu, Kadavu, parts of Lomaiviti and the Southern Lau Group. In Western Division strong winds and high waves destroyed or damaged a number of houses in nine villages along the Coral Coast (the South Coast of Viti Levu). The owners of these houses were forced to evacuate. Root crops, fruit trees and some sugar cane fields were damaged, minor landslides occurred and roads were closed due to flooding, fallen trees and sea-borne debris. The most distant islands in Eastern Division, the Southern Lau Group also suffered damage to buildings and crops.

10. One fatality was recorded - a 60 year old man was swept to his death whilst trying to cross a river near Sigatoka in Southwestern Viti Levu. There are no other reports of casualties.

National and International Response in Fiji

11. The Fiji National DISMAC monitored PAULA's advance and the Fiji Meteorological Service issued a Tropical Cyclone Alert on 28 February, when divisional and district-level disaster management centres were also activated. Advisories were issues to the public to ensure that they were prepared for the cyclone and to warn them against endangering their lives by putting to sea or crossing swollen creeks and rivers, and to be ready to move to safe ground if threatened by flooding. As a precautionary measure, schools in the Western Division were closed on 2 March.

12. The Emergency Committee of the National Disaster Council met on 4 March to consider preliminary reports on damage caused by the cyclone. The provisional figure for damage to seawalls, agricultural access roads, plantations and houses in the Western Division is USD 800,000. Damage in the islands of Eastern Division is not quantified yet, and assessment teams were dispatched by boat on 6 March. The district assessment teams and relevant departments were asked to submit detailed assessment reports by 9 March.

13. Reports indicate that the worst affects of the cyclone are localised at few communities in Western Division along the Southwestern and South Coast of Viti Levu, and in Eastern Division on Kadavu Island and in the Southern Lau Group. Given their relative isolation and limited resource base, the inhabitants of these outlying islands are the most vulnerable to fresh water and food shortages. The authorities have dispatched a barge with emergency water supplies to Kadavu and are ready to provide appropriate assistance to communities in the Southern Lau Islands, should it be needed. The Fiji Red Cross Society has offered to provide foodstuffs and clothing to the affected villages along the Coral Coast.

14. So far the Government of Fiji has not declared a state of emergency for any area, nor made any appeal for international assistance.

15. 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.

16. 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:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.