Solomons: Cyclone relief on the way to Rennel and Bellona

Report
from Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Published on 28 Jan 2003
Solomon Islands disaster management officials are preparing to send relief supplies to Rennell and Bellona Islands in Makira-Ulawa Province, in the wake of Cyclone Beni. The cyclone battered the southern islands yesterday, bringing with it torrential rains and strong winds, which forced many residents to flee their homes. Joining us to discuss the impact of the cyclone is Brian Beti, of the Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office in Honiara.
Presenter/Interviewer: James Panichi

Speakers: Brian Beti, of the Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office

BETI: "Well according to initial reports that have been sent from the two islands they will need immediate food supplies, plus clothing.

"Much of this has been destroyed from floodwaters in the last two days when the cyclone was sort of stationed near the islands."

PANICHI: Can we assume that their crops have also been destroyed and that they might further down the track have problems with the supply of fresh water?

BETI: "Yeah a number of reports from East Rennell where the fresh water lake is under water, this is from rising seawater from the lake itself. Yes food gardens were destroyed over the last two to three days."

PANICHI: In the case of Cyclone Zoe which struck Tikopia, obviously there was a problem associated with getting the relief supplies to the island simply because there was no airstrip. That's obviously not the case in Rennell as far as I know, is that correct?

BETI: "Yeah there are two airstrips on these two islands and that it is much closer to town so that the first available transport could be sent sometime this week and just as I'm talking right now the central coordinating group is holding an emergency meeting on what action to take in terms of sending emergency relief supplies to the two islands."

PANICHI: Does that mean that the delays that were experienced in Tikopia will no longer be an issue on Rennell and Bellona; can you get those supplies out to them immediately?

BETI: "Yes you see getting to Tikopia then you spend most of your time travelling in the sea and you only spend one or two days on the two islands because of its geographical setting, which is quite far from Honiara.

"Whereas the two islands here they are very close, it takes about less than 10 hours to get to these two islands yes."

PANICHI: Does the parallel with Tikopia in terms of the relief effort end there in other words or will you be doing similar things for those islands as you did earlier on with Anuta and Tikopia?

BETI: "Yes, yes as soon as the weather subsides there will be a ship sent to Rennell and Bellona carrying food supplies and other emergency supplies."

PANICHI: And how are you managing to keep in touch with the people on Rennell Island, is radio contact, have you established radio contact?

BETI: "Yeah radio contact over the last few days have been very good, there are about 10 to 15 radio wirelesses on the two islands so that they sort of keep us in touch and that's quite a difference from the Tikopia experience."

PANICHI: So the people on Rennell Island know at this stage that help is on the way?

BETI: "They know exactly what will happen next, yeah."

PANICHI: In the case of Tikopia a very interesting aspect was that there were no casualties on the island after Cyclone Zoe simply because residents were used to dealing with the effects of cyclone. Would you believe that there'd be a similar case in Bellona and Rennell, that people know how to respond to these types of emergencies?

BETI: "Exactly yeah, the last cyclone which hit the two islands was about seven and a half years ago and they knew exactly what measures to take in an event of a cyclone so that in the last two days they have been hiding in hideaway caves.

"And there are one or two cyclone proof classrooms built on the two islands where the people sort of hide"

PANICHI: And Brian just finally there was need for money in the case of Tikopia, is there going to be a strain on resources for Solomon Islands this time in this relief effort?

BETI: "I think the Solomons Islands government will always be forthcoming in terms of its obligations otherwise we will continue to depend on foreign assistance and already there are indications from our aid sources on that matter."

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