Fiji - Cyclone Ami OCHA Situation Report No. 3

Ref. OCHA/GVA - 2003/0017
OCHA Situation Report No. 3
Fiji - Tropical Cyclone AMI
occurred: 14 January 2003


This situation report is based on information provided by the Fiji National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), through the office of the OCHA Regional Disaster Response Adviser for the Pacific.

Cyclone AMI

1. Tropical Cyclone AMI struck Fiji on Tuesday 14 January, making landfall at the eastern tip of the country's second largest island, Vanua Levu, early in the morning. It turned south-southeast, traversed the Natewa Peninsula and Taveuni, Fiji's third largest island, before crossing the Koro Sea just west of the small islands of the Lau Group during the afternoon. It left Fiji's waters and passed within 150 km of Tongatapu during the evening, dissipating over the cooler seas to the south.

2. Cyclone AMI was a Category 1/2 storm. It reached peak intensity as it passed over the Koro Sea, with winds of 150 km/hr close to its centre, and momentary gusts of 200 km/hr. The cyclone also caused heavy rain and flooding of coastal areas due to storm surge. Seas close to the centre of the cyclone were described as phenomenal, and they were very rough with heavy swell up to 400 km away.

Disaster Impact and Response

3. Initial reports from an aerial survey on Wednesday 15 January indicated that the cyclone most heavily affected the eastern end of the large island of Vanua Levu in Northern Division, comprising Macuata Province (population: 84,000) to the northeast and Cakaudrove (population: 46,000) to the southeast, including Taveuni Island. AMI then swept on through the small far-flung islands of the Lau Group in Eastern Division. Aside from damage caused by high winds along its entire path, Labasa Town and much of Macuata was damaged by severe flooding.

4. Power in Labasa was cut for 7 days, but has now been restored in most urban areas. Power has also been restored in Savusavu, Vanua Levu's second town. The majority of surrounding areas is still without electricity, and the time and cost of restoration is not yet known. Other infrastructure damaged included a number of secondary roads around Labasa and Savusavu, and the main trunk road between them, which was blocked by a landslide but has now been cleared. The main jetty on Taveuni was also damaged, but it is now back in operation. The Ministry of Works has commenced repairs and estimated the cost of rehabilitating all roads, bridges and jetties at FJD 1,435,000 (USD 697,000).

5. In the telecommunications sector the major damage was sustained by the Delaikoro radio station, disrupting links between Vanua Levu, Lomaiviti, and Viti Levu. The Labasa and Savusavu telephone exchanges sustained cable damage and, across Vanua Levu, 8 stations were put out of action by damage to their antennae and lack of power. Across Lau, 4 stations were put out of action. Telecoms personnel are working to restore the station at Delaikoro and other critical facilities.

6. The flooding rendered the water supply and sanitation system for Labasa Town inoperable. Certain areas, including the hospital, have had their supply restored, but 75per cent of the urban and peri-urban population (about 30,000 people) are still without safe mains water. Water containers have been distributed and tankers are supplying the more accessible communities, but more 20 litre water containers and 2,000+ litre tanks are still needed. It will cost approximately FJD 100,000 (USD 48,600) to restore the Labasa Regional Sewerage System, over FJD 170,000 (USD 83,000) to restore mains water across the whole of Northern Division including Taveuni, and the total cost of damage in the water and sanitation sector is estimated at FJD 950,000 (USD 462,000).

7. The Ministry of Health reports that in Northern Division 4 health centres were seriously damaged and one, at Udu Point, was completely destroyed. The Labasa Hospital was without power, water and communications for 4 days, but these services have now been restored. Medical supplies and equipment worth FJD 352,000 (USD 171,000) have been provided so far, and health authorities are monitoring the population in affected areas in case dengue fever and leptospirosis, which are already prevalent, reach epidemic proportions.

8. The Ministry of Education reports that 26 schools across both Northern and Eastern Divisions will now be unable to open at the beginning of the school year (27 January). These schools require temporary classrooms such as tents, educational materials, and funding to enable them to support students whose parents are now unable to meet the costs due to losses in the cyclone. Damage to schools across Northern Division is estimated at FJD 795,000 (USD 386,000).

9. Villages under the path of the cyclone in Eastern Vanua Levu, Lau, and to a lesser extent, the Lomaiviti Group, all sustained damage to varying degrees, mainly due to the high wind and flying debris, but also because of storm surge in some exposed coastal areas. Housing damage is estimated at FJD 560,000 to 2.5 million (USD 272,000 to 1.2 million), but the number of houses destroyed and seriously damaged has yet to be quantified. Affected families are beginning to be supplied with tarpaulins, rope, and other temporary repair and shelter materials. In the longer-term the Government is considering expanding its existing housing rehabilitation programme under the Ministry of Regional Development to assist the worst affected. The field assessment teams still need to provide figures to enable detailed planning in the housing sector.

10. Subsistence agriculture was worst affected in the Macuata and Cakaudrove Provinces; the Lomaiviti Islands of Ovalau, Koro and Gau (population: 17,000); and Lau (population: 12,000), particularly in the centre and south of the group. Coastal plantations were both flattened by the wind and inundated with saltwater. 6,100 people in thirty-three communities across eight districts (tikina) in Lau have now been supplied with a 2 week standard food ration, at a cost of FJD 203,000 (USD 98,600). Damage to root and other vegetable crops, fruit, livestock and farming assets in the six worst affected districts in Macuata Province was estimated at FJD 1.8 million (USD 874,000). Ten truckloads of food have therefore been delivered to communities in the Northern Division. The worst affected communities in both Northern and Eastern Divisions will be reassessed after 2 weeks and resupplied with rations if necessary.

11. The large cane-growing area of Macuata on Vanua Levu was also extensively damaged by flash flooding, seriously reducing the potential yield of the sugar crop to be harvested from June this year, and thus the income of all those who depend on Fiji's main cash crop. The Fiji Sugar Corporation estimates damage to the 2003 crop at FJD 7.6 million (USD 3.7 million), and damage to assets at FJD 6.2 million (USD 3.0 million). In addition, the Labasa Chamber of Commerce estimates economic losses in other areas, including agriculture, at FJD 20 million (USD 9.7 million)

12. The confirmed death toll is 19: 18 in Northern Division and one in Eastern. Two people are still missing.

Action at National Level

13. The Ministry of Regional Development, through the NDMO, activated the national cyclone response plan. The first assistance reached the worst affected islands of Cicia and Vanuavatu as early as Thursday 16 January, and multi-sectoral teams from respective Divisional Headquarters conducted post-disaster assessment in Northern and Eastern Divisions. The first of the naval patrol boats carrying assessment teams returned to Suva only on Thursday 23 January. Two teams have now been debriefed and the National Emergency Response Centre (NEOC) is attempting to consolidate their findings and also to prepare a summary table showing all relief delivered to date. This should reveal any gaps in the relief operation so far, and also provide a basis for longer-term recovery planning, which will be conducted by the relevant line ministries under the coordination of the National Disaster Controller through the National Disaster Management Council.

14. The Fiji Military provided three naval patrol boats to transport emergency relief supplies and the five government assessment teams despatched to the Lau Group. It also sent a company (100 personnel) to Labasa to assist Northern Division Headquarters with distribution and other relief work. Three other government-owned general cargo vessels have also been despatched, two to Lau and one to Lomaiviti, plus one landing craft and one barge for water transport to outlying coastal communities in Northern Division. Commercial vessels have also been chartered for the relief operation.

15. The Fiji Red Cross Society has mounted an energetic response to Cyclone AMI. It immediately distributed the contents of two of its disaster preparedness containers; mainly shelter materials, blankets, clothing, mosquito repellent, 20 litre water containers, and purification tablets to affected communities on Vanua Levu, Rabi, Kioa, Qamea, and Taveuni Islands, in Northern Division, and Vanuabalavu in Eastern Division. It has also deployed a water purification plant to Labasa Hospital, and launched a local appeal that has raised over FJD 215,000 (USD 105,000). The Prime Minister launched another successful appeal, raising FJD 218,000 (USD 106,000) to date.

16. The Prime Minister authorised a disaster declaration for the whole of Vanua Levu, Lomaiviti, and Lau, on Tuesday 14 January. This decision was endorsed on Wednesday 22 January, when the Cabinet met and decided to seek technical and financial assistance for both the relief effort and its rehabilitation programme. The Government launched its appeal for international assistance on Thursday 23 January 2003.

International Assistance

17. International donors have received the formal request for assistance from the Government of Fiji, but are still awaiting detailed information on the worst affected locations and the most critical sectors, where there may still be significant unmet needs. Donors have agreed not to provide food sourced from overseas, to guard against imported pests and to maintain local diets.

18. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has compiled an appeal for international assistance for CHF 820,000 (USD 552,000), to support relief and recovery for more than 30,000 people on Vanua Levu, Taveuni and throughout the Lau Group. The funds will be channelled through the Fiji Red Cross Society, which will concentrate on providing potable water, non-food items, shelter and reconstruction materials for community facilities such as schools.

19. The following international assistance has been provided or offered to date:

Country/organisation Description of assistance
Value in USD
Hire of helicopter for assessment and relief deliveries
Hire of 2 water purification units for Eastern Division
not costed
Hire of office equipment for NEOC
not costed
201,000 water purification tablets through Fiji Red Cross
not costed
Relief assistance through Fiji Red Cross
Contribution to local appeal
Aircraft with 5,000 water containers & 1,000 tarpaulins
not costed
Aircraft with 3,200 light blankets & 2,000 tarpaulins
not costed
Aircraft with 300 tarpaulins, 150 blankets, 50 water containers, 5,000 puritabs, plus 2 flights to Labasa
not costed
Naval patrol vessel for delivery run to Cicia Island in Lau
not costed
Hardware, 100 tarps & food relief locally purchased
Offering medium-term school / health centre rehabilitation
New Zealand
Provision of Orion aircraft for aerial reconnaissance
not costed
Contribution to Prime Minister's Appeal
Aircraft with 1,000 water containers & 600 tarpaulins
not costed
Available to purchase additional relief or logistic support
14 x 2,000 litre water tanks for the Lau Group
Norway through OCHA
For relief effort through NDMO (uncommitted as yet)
United Kingdom
Relief assistance through Fiji Red Cross
Contribution to Prime Minister's Appeal
United States of America
Cash to Fiji Red Cross for water purification equipment
European Union
Offered assistance for both relief & rehabilitation
International Federation
Relief assistance through Fiji Red Cross
Offered technical / financial assistance to Min. of Health
OCHA Grant
Through NDMO for local purchase of tarpaulins & rope
Pacific Islands Forum
Regional Natural Disaster Relief Fund - emergency grant
Post-disaster impact assessment to reduce vulnerability
not costed

Projected Needs

20. The NDMO has identified shelter, water supply, and food as the critical sectors for affected communities. International assistance is needed both with the provision of relief in these areas and later on, with support to the rehabilitation efforts of the relevant line ministries and non-governmental organisations. The NDMO has stated that sufficient food is available in Fiji, so this should be purchased locally. The stocks of tarpaulins and water containers have virtually been exhausted, but donors such as Australia and France are flying more in. Given the very widespread nature of this emergency, donors may also wish to consider supporting the national response by assisting the Government to hire aircraft and vessels.

21. Over the longer-term, the Government has stated that establishing a programme to rehabilitate rural housing, schools, health centres, and damaged infrastructure, is a national priority. Most materials and expertise for longer-term rehabilitation should be available locally, but Fiji will need significant financial assistance from donors to complete this work within the next 12 months.

General Information

22. OCHA is prepared to serve as channel for cash contributions to be used for immediate relief assistance, in coordination/consultation with relevant organizations in the United Nations system. For banking details please contact the Desk Officers indicated below. OCHA provides donors with written confirmation and pertinent details concerning the utilization of the funds contributed.

23. For coordination purposes, donors are requested to inform OCHA Geneva, as indicated below, on relief missions/pledges/contributions and their corresponding values by item.

24. The OCHA Regional Disaster Response Adviser is working within the NEOC in Suva in support of the Government, and is in close consultation with key donor representatives. He will revert with further information as it becomes available.

25. This situation report, together with information on other ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officers:
Mr. R. M=FCller / Mr. S. Nakajima
Direct Tel. +41-22-917 31 31 / 40 34

Press contact:
(in GVA) - Ms. Elizabeth Byrs, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53
(in N.Y.) - Ms. Stephanie Bunker, direct Tel. +1-212-963 87 40


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