Solomons: Another cyclone lashes islands

Report
from Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Published on 27 Jan 2003
Solomon Islands is being lashed by its second cyclone in a month. This latest one, Cyclone Beni, is battering the islands of Rennell and Bellona which make up the country's most south-western province and thus the one closest to Australia. Our Pacific Correspondent, Sean Dorney, is in Honiara where unusually strong surf whipped up by the cyclone is breaking on the beaches of the Solomon Islands capital.
Presenter/Interviewer: Sean Dorney

Speakers: Chanel Iroi, acting director, Solomon Islands Meteorological Service; Brian Beti, National Disaster Office media spokesman

DORNEY: (SOUNDS OF WAVES) That's the surf at Point Cruz where the water is normally so calm and gentle it's where the Yacht Club teaches young children to sail. When I got up this morning the patrol boats which are usually anchored at the Point Cruz jetty were bobbing about and soon after put out to sea.

But while we've had quite a deal of rain and wind in Honiara the worst effects of Cyclone Beni are being felt on Rennell and Bellona Islands off to the south-west. I went to the Meterological Services main weather station at Henderson airfield where the Acting Director, Chanel Iroi, spent most of the weekend tracking the cyclone.

IROI: "As of this morning Cyclone Beni is located about seventy nautical miles south-south east of Rennell. It's slowly intensifying at the moment and it's very slowly moving in the south-west direction."

DORNEY: So that's away from Rennell is it?

IROI: "It will continue slowly moving in that direction but it's still in the presence of those two islands."

DORNEY: What sort of winds are they experiencing there?

IROI: "Currently the forecast winds that we gave for Rennell and Bellona is in the range of fifty to sixty knot winds which are in the category of a Storm Force Waring. Now when we checked with the radio people on those two islands they confirmed that the winds are of the same strength."

DORNEY: Has it caused much damage did they say?

IROI: "Yes there were damages of food crops and coconut trees and also kitchens and houses which are built of local materials. However, there were no damaged at present of buildings which are made of permanent materials."

DORNEY: At the National Disaster Office, the Media Spokesman, Brian Beti, said radio contact with Rennell and Bellona was good and they'd had reports that a number of village houses built out of local bush materials next to the national heritage listed lake in the middle of Rennell had been wrecked.

BETI: "A couple of houses at the lakeside - this is East Rennell where the cyclone position is very close - so there are a number of damages, yes."

DORNEY: Any reports of casualties?

BETI: "So far not yet, not yet. At the moment people are still hiding. They have moved inland and tried to take shelter. The wind at the moment is still very strong."

DORNEY: What's National Disaster doing? You're just waiting to see what services you can provide?

BETI: "Well, as you know, we are still monitoring the situation at the moment by keeping in touch with these people through radio contact. And that's one very good thing about these two islands.

" They had radios so they sort of speak to us every minute. And that is how the NDMO (National Disaster Management Office) with sort of come up with a plan. "

DORNEY: I noticed that the partrol boats left the base this morning. Was that just because the sea was a bit rough here or are they being deployed?

BETI: "I think they've just moved to the main wharf because the wharf they are now in is facing the roughs."

DORNEY: So it's just manoeuvering to more sheltered space?

BETI: "Exactly, yes."

DORNEY: The crew of one of the patrol boats refused to assist with the previous cyclone until they'd been paid overdue special allowances. Whether they'll be sent to Rennell or Bellona will depend on how bad the cyclone gets. The Acting Director of Meterological Services, Chanel Iroi, says strong wind warnings have been issued for two other provinces.

IROI: "Yes, as of last night we also gave warnings for people who are living in the south of Guadalcanal and also of Makira and Ulau province. We gave winds of forty to forty-five knots which are gale force for those people who are living on those two provinces."

DORNEY: I asked Mr Iroi what the cyclone was expected to do next?

IROI: The forecast that we have from the guiding computer models that we have, and it's a consensus, that they cyclone will gradually move in the south-west direction for about twenty-four hours and it will change southward after that?

DORNEY: And keep intensifying?

IROI: Yes, it will slowly intensify as it moves in that direction away from the country.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

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