Caritas Australia responds to Chuuk after hit by Typhoon Chataan and landslides

Report
from Caritas
Published on 12 Jul 2002
The people of Chuuk are recovering from the damage caused by strong winds, heavy rain and landslides in the wake of Typhoon Chataan that went through the island state between July 1st -3rd 2002.
On 3 July, after three days of heavy rain, six landslides occurred on five islands. As a result of the typhoon and landslides up to 40 people have died, 100 have been injured and more than 1,500 people have been left homeless.

Basic food crops were destroyed and some water sources are now contaminated, resulting in a need for food and clean water.

Caritas Australia today committed US$ 20,000 emergency relief to assist the people of Chuuk, to provide food, water and shelter.

Caritas Australia National Director Jack de Groot commented on the severity of the situation, "The people of Chuuk community have been devastated by the disaster. Caritas Australia will provide funds to relieve the immediate need for food, drinking water and temporary shelter."

Chuuk, part of the Federated States of Micronesia, is 1,000 kilometres from Guam in the northern Pacific. It has a population of 63,000 people, who live on 40 inhabited islands. Without regular boats or planes, it is one of the most isolated countries on earth.

The weather bureau in Guam began issuing typhoon warnings on 28 June, cautioning against strong winds and heavy rain. However, it was impossible to predict landslides.

Typhoons are no stranger to Chuuk. July and November are known as the "typhoon months". Typically, typhoons form close to Chuuk before moving on towards Guam and Saipan.

By July 1, the weather bureau had placed Chuuk on condition 1 alert meaning that everyone should stay in their homes. As it turned out, this magnified the tragedy as nearly all of those who were buried in the landslides were taking shelter in their homes until they thought the danger of the high winds and rain had passed.

It seems that the heavy rain combined with years of deforestation for agricultural crops, weakened the land and created the conditions for the landslides.

Both within the lagoon area and on the outer islands the homeless are finding shelter where they can. Many have gone to friends and relatives but others are sheltering in Churches, government buildings, schools and offices. Clearly, this is only a very temporary situation.

For further information please contact:

Katie Ritchie
Caritas Australia,
Communications Coordinator
Ph: 9956 5799
Mobile: 0417 284 831
Email: katier@caritas.org.au