Vanuatu - Tropical Cyclone Sose OCHA Situation Report No. 1

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 11 Apr 2001
Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2001/0086
OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Vanuatu - Tropical Cyclone Sose
6 - 9 April 2001

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

Situation and Damage

1. Tropical Cyclone SOSE formed to the West of the Torres Islands, about 250 km to the Northwest of the largest island of Espiritu Santo. It moved gradually Westward then South and later Southeast from 6-9 April 2001, tracking just to the West of the Vanuatu Islands, and passing within 40 km of Santo on 7 April. It caused heavy rain, rough Northwesterly swells, and sustained gale force winds over 100 km/hr throughout the western isles of Vanuatu, but particularly affecting the islands of Santo in the North, Malekula, Ambae, the Shepherd Group and Efate in Central Vanuatu, and Erromango, Tanna and Anatom in the South. SOSE has affected the same provinces - Sanma, Malampa, Shefa and Tafea - struck by Cyclone PAULA from 28 February to 1 March 2001.

2. A 6 year old boy was swept away whilst trying to cross a swollen river at Nawalala Village on Santo with his father. His body has not been recovered. An inter-island vessel, the M.V. Omale, sank in heavy seas off the coast of Malo Island near Santo. All 16 passengers and crew made it ashore safely after 4 hours in the water. No other reports of casualties have been received yet.

3. Villages on the South Coast of Santo and in the vicinity of Luganville, the main town, suffered from flooding which cut roads and has further damaged crops, particularly bananas, yams, taro and manioc, already adversely affected by the previous cyclone. 60 people were evacuated from flooded areas, some 59 houses were completely destroyed and 101 houses partially damaged by the wind. On tiny Ahamb Island next to Malekula, 4 classrooms and all food crops left after PAULA plus those planted since, were destroyed. On Ambae buildings were damaged and at least 2 schools lost classrooms. In Port Vila, the capital on Efate Island, 50 people were evacuated as the waters rose. Power lines were brought down and roads were blocked by debris and floodwaters.

Forecast

4. At 06:00 hours UTC on 11 April, Tropical Cyclone SOSE was located at 26.4 South 169.5 East and is forecast to weaken steadily as it moves away from the equator.

National and International Response

5. The Vanuatu Department of Meteorology issued a tropical cyclone alert early on 7 April and continuously updated its advisory message thereafter. NDMO predicted landslides, flooding in low-lying and coastal areas, and warned the public to stay at home and avoid taking unnecessary risks by crossing rivers and streams or putting to sea.

6. The National Disaster Committee (NDC) convened on 9 April to make recommendations to assist the most affected communities. Food aid is rarely provided following disasters in Vanuatu, but with the losses to food crops and stocks caused by the passage of two cyclones in 6 weeks, the Committee is considering the urgent provision of emergency rations, water purification tablets, shelter materials and seeds to the areas most affected by both PAULA and SOSE.

7. Preliminary estimates of relief requirements include 148 tarpaulins and 200 bags of rice for damaged schools, 100 tarpaulins for the worst affected communities pending receipt of assessment reports, and 5,000 seedlings for replanting. In response, the Vanuatu Red Cross Society will provide temporary shelter materials, water containers and purification tablets for affected communities on Santo, and similar items plus 500 bags of rice for villages in the Shepherd Group. The Red Cross is also looking after the evacuees in Port Vila.

8. Owing to unrelated political developments in Vanuatu, which have resulted in the adjournment of Parliament, a state of emergency has not been declared and the Government has not yet requested any international relief. Provincial Disaster Committees and line ministries have been tasked with conducting initial assessments of damage and needs in their respective regions and sectors, and it is hoped to produce a preliminary report to guide the immediate response, and rehabilitation and reconstruction, very shortly. The NDC will consider requesting appropriate assistance when the assessment reports are compiled, through diplomatic missions and NGOs based in Port Vila.

9. NDMO predicts that the combined effect of the two cyclones will adversely affect the national economy, since in Western and Southern Santo and Malekula, Ambae, and the Shepherds, 50-60 per cent of cash and subsistence crops have suffered damage, together with a similar proportion of buildings. Roads and water catchment areas and reservoirs are also blocked by debris and damaged, and schools are particularly affected, as many have lost their subsistence plots and a number of classrooms.

10. OCHA is in contact with relevant government authorities in Vanuatu through its 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: +41-22-91712 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 / Ms. S. De Souza / Mr. S. Matsuka, Direct Tel. +41-22-917 31 31 / 16 36 / 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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