Fiji - Cyclone Ami OCHA Situation Report No. 5

Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2003/0037
OCHA Situation Report No. 5
Fiji - Tropical Cyclone AMI
14 January 2003


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

The Disaster Impact

1. Tropical Cyclone AMI struck Northern and Eastern Divisions of Fiji on Tuesday 14 January, causing an estimated USD 30 million worth of damage; twice the loss inflicted by the last major cyclone, GAVIN in 1998. It is now 10 years since Cyclone KINA, which caused three times the damage.

2. The cyclone impacted most heavily on the eastern end of Vanua Levu in Northern Division, comprising Macuata Province in the Northeast and Cakaudrove Province, including the islands of Rabi, Taveuni, and Qamea in the Southeast. Coastal communities suffered from storm surge and inland areas of Macuata and Labasa Town were severely flooded. AMI then swept across the Koro Sea, where it reached its peak intensity with winds of 150 km/hr close to its centre, heavy rain and high seas, damaging the small far-flung islands of the Lau Group in Eastern Division.

3. Landslides blocked roads and the flooded rivers damaged bridges on the large islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni, severing the links between the divisional headquarters in Labasa, other centres such as Savusavu, and smaller outlying communities. Communications were disrupted by damage to radio relay stations and the telephone network, and it took over 2 weeks to restore reliable communications across the whole area; a factor which seriously hampered the assessment and relief effort.

4. Power in Labasa was cut for 7 days causing a breakdown in both the water and sanitation systems in the town and across large areas beyond it, leaving 30,000 people without a supply of safe water. The systems also sustained significant damage from flooding.

5. 2,662 houses were destroyed and 5,890 houses were damaged across both divisions, with a total loss estimated at USD 6.7 million. More than 100 primary and secondary schools sustained damage with 70 individual classrooms and 51 teacher's quarters requiring complete replacement. The total damage in the education sector is estimated at USD 1.8 million, and more than 20 schools were forced to start the academic year with many of their students working under tarpaulins and other temporary shelters.

6. Agriculture was worst affected across Macuata and Cakaudrove Provinces; and in Cicia, Kabara and Vanuavatu Islands in the Lau Group, which suffered damage to root and green vegetable crops, fruit, livestock, and faming buildings, equipment and other assets. The large cane-growing area in Macuata was extensively flooded, reducing the potential yield of the next sugar crop.

7. The confirmed death toll is 15, with 2 people unaccounted for.

The Emergency Response Operation

8. The Government declared a state of emergency for the whole of Northern and Eastern Divisions on the day of the disaster, 14 January 2003, and under the provisions of the Natural Disaster Management Act, this state remained in force for a period of 30 days. During and immediately after the impact of the cyclone, the population in the affected areas occupied 16 evacuation centres. Relief operations were undertaken under the overall direction of the Emergency Committee, a subset of the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC), chaired by the National Disaster Controller. Field-level activities were directed by the two Divisional Commissioners and the relevant District Officers.

9. Assessment commenced on 15 January with the despatch by New Zealand of an Orion aircraft to conduct aerial surveillance along the path of the cyclone. Early the following day a Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) patrol boat with a medical team and relief supplies was despatched to Cicia and Vanuavatu in the Lau Group, which were deemed the worst affected islands. Over the next two days another five vessels deployed teams of officials from the divisional headquarters and line ministries to the other islands of Lau and Lomaiviti, provinces of Eastern Division, whilst officials from Northern Division and district headquarters also commenced assessment by vehicle and boat around Macuata and Cakaudrove Provinces. Further assessment was carried out on 17 January by helicopter along the north coast of Vanua Levu and on the remote islands of Cikobia and Mali.

10. Early response to the cyclone concentrated on the provision of safe drinking water by truck to the population in and around the urban area of Labasa Town, and by barge to isolated communities in Macuata. The Fiji Electricity Authority and the Ministry of Works immediately commenced efforts to restore mains power, water, and sanitation to Labasa. Teams also began to clear essential road links and to repair critical bridges and jetties.

11. In the Lau Group 7,795 people have been supplied with food at a total cost of USD 254,000. The small islands of Avea, Cikobia-i-Lau, Tuvuca, Cicia, Nayau, Vanuavatu, Oneata, Moce, Komo, Namuka, Kabara, Fuluga, Ogea, Vatoa, and Ono-i-Lau, have all been supplied with 4 weeks rations, plus planting materials such as a kumala (sweet potato, a fast-maturing root crop). The larger islands of Vanuabalavu and Lakeba were given a package of one-off assistance, and Moala, Totoya, and Matuka as well as all the islands in the Lomaiviti Group, which lay to the west of the cyclone's path, were assessed as not requiring any assistance.

12. In Northern Division 63,697 people have been supplied with food at a total cost of USD 446,000. Isolated communities on the outlying islands of Naqelelevu, Cikobia, Druadrua, Mali, Kia, Qamea and Yacata, and on the coast at Udu, were given 4 weeks rations. The less isolated communities in eight other districts on Vanua Levu and Taveuni were given a one-week ration, but arrangements are being made to deliver another 3 weeks' supply. Twenty-five primary and secondary schools with a roll of 3,285 pupils were also given 4 weeks' supply.

13. A total of 71,492 people, or 45 per cent of the population of the two Divisions, have received assistance, mainly food rations. The Government has emphasised that all assistance was provided impartially on the basis of the assessed need alone, and not according to any ethnic or other distinction. In Macuatu Province, 69 per cent of the rations were provided to Indo-Fijian communities, 30 per cent to indigenous Fijians, and 1per cent to others whereas the population breakdown is 64.4 per cent Indo-Fijian, 24.1 per cent indigenous Fijian, and 11.5 per cent from other races. Aside from food, the Government, Red Cross, NGOs, and donor countries also supplied large numbers of tarpaulins, water containers, and household items.

14. The main constraint to the relief operation was the difficulty in accessing remote communities. On the large islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni, mobility was restricted by the landslide and flood damage to roads and bridges. In the Lau Group the small size and isolation of the island communities complicated and delayed both the assessment and relief distribution. In addition, stocks of certain essential relief items such as tarpaulins and 25 litre water containers were soon exhausted and more had to be flown in from overseas. Finally, the lack of government-owned vessels to transport supplies to the islands forced the NDMC to authorise the hire of private vessels at commercial rates.

The Rehabilitation and Recovery Programme

15. The Government has adopted a multi-agency approach to its Cyclone AMI Rehabilitation Programme, with the Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Health, Regional Development, Works and the RFMF acting in coordination, under the direction of the National Disaster Controller, who is the Permanent Secretary for Regional Development. During the course of the programme this Ministry will undertake a mid-term review, and will also present a final report to the Cabinet in 12 months' time.

16. The Ministry of Agriculture has commenced a programme to supply planting materials, whilst rehabilitation of the cane-growing areas and fixed assets is the responsibility of the Fiji Sugar Corporation. The communities of Labasa and Savusavu have come together to support the rehabilitation of businesses in the urban areas. Public Works has now completed repairs to the majority of damaged roads, bridges, jetties, mains water supply and sewerage systems, and the Fiji Electricity Authority and Telecom Fiji Ltd. have restored power and communications to most areas.

17. The Ministry of Education has commenced an extensive school rehabilitation programme, supplying new teaching materials and equipment, with repair and replacement of classrooms and teachers' quarters being undertaken by the RFMF in Northern Division and the Ministry of Regional Development in Eastern Division. Regional Development is responsible for the housing repair and reconstruction programme, and has estimated that the cost of building 2,287 new 5 x 7 m cyclone-resistant houses in Northern Division and 375 in Eastern, will cost USD 7.6 million. The repair of 5,300 damaged houses in Northern Division and 590 in Eastern, will amount to USD 3.6 million. Teams have just left Labasa and Suva to verify the exact numbers of main dwellings destroyed or damaged. Labour and other operational costs amount to a further USD 2.5 million. A total of nearly USD 14 million therefore has to be found from the national budget for capital development.

International Assistance

18. The Fiji Red Cross has shifted its emphasis from relief to planning for recovery, which it expects to continue throughout 2003. To support the Fiji Red Cross in its efforts, the International Federation launched an appeal on 22 January for CHF 820,000 (USD 603,000) to assist more than 30,000 people, focusing primarily on providing drinking water, non-food relief items, shelter and reconstruction materials for community facilities such as schools. The appeal is currently 8 per cent funded following donations from the Red Cross Societies of Japan (USD 27,600), Korea (USD 14,700), and New Zealand (USD 5,460). The Federation has requested support from the European Commission Humanitarian Office - the proposal is being examined and a decision is expected shortly.

19. Additions to the table summarising international assistance to date Published in OCHA Situation Report No. 4 dated 31 January 2003., are as follows:

  • In addition to over USD 370,000 in relief assistance, Australia has donated USD 162,440 to the Fiji Red Cross to replenish its disaster preparedness stocks, and USD 119,290 to Save the Children Fund (SCF) to help children in affected areas return to school. It is also looking at providing further rehabilitation assistance to the Ministries of Health and Education.

  • France has delivered food relief, household water tanks and containers through the Government of French Polynesia on its vessel "Tahiti Niu". The total value of this assistance is USD 609,000.

  • Greece has donated USD 80,560 through Fiji's Mission to the United Nations in New York.

  • Italy is considering to donate USD 208,380 through OCHA for ongoing food relief to Eastern Division and the provision of 5,000 litre water tanks under the schools rehabilitation programme.

  • Japan will donate USD 64,260 to the Fiji Red Cross for installation of water tanks in schools.

  • New Zealand is considering supporting the SCF proposal, and has offered assistance for the provision of water tanks in Northern Division. It will also transport relief goods donated by the Fijian expatriate community living in New Zealand.

  • United Kingdom has donated USD 16,400 to the Red Cross appeal and has also contributed USD 17,100 to the SCF project to support schoolchildren.

  • Taiwan has donated USD 10,150 for rehabilitation, through its Suva-based trade commission.

  • UNFPA will reallocate existing project funds to meet needs identified by the Ministry of Health.

  • WHO will provide an additional USD 5,000 worth of equipment and supplies for vector control.

Outstanding Issues

20. The Ministry of Health has reported that the health status of the affected population is satisfactory, and at present there are no epidemic outbreaks, although they are monitoring the situation closely and taking steps to control vectors such as rats and mosquitoes. The number of leptospirosis cases admitted to hospital in Northern Division during January was 40, and 7 patients remain in hospital today. Other health concerns include diarrhoea, dengue fever, and skin infections.

21. The NDMO confirms that there are still relief needs in Fiji's Northern and Eastern Divisions. The Government intends to continue supplying its standard ration package to the worst affected communities for 3 months up to mid-April, subject to monthly re-assessment of the situation. Food rations will also continue to be provided to schools at a monthly cost of USD 49,000, since this will ease the financial burden on both schools and parents, and ensure that there are fewer drop-outs. The cost of the rations and the hire of vessels and/or road transport to deliver them will add to the USD 700,000 already spent by the Government on its emergency food relief programme to date.

22. International assistance is also needed to support the Government's programme of rehabilitation and recovery from the cyclone. The most urgent recovery needs are in the water and sanitation sector, and the NDMO is particularly concerned about restoring a safe and sufficient water supply in all schools. The Government is planning to provide a significant number of fibreglass 5,000 litre water tanks to all schools in the affected areas at a cost of FJD 916 per tank including the concrete base, pipes and other fittings. The NDMO is looking for funding for both the materials and the logistic costs of delivering and installing the systems, which are critical for the recovery of the affected communities and also for the mitigation of future hazards, including drought.

23. The Government has accepted that some elements of its response to Cyclone AMI could have been better. It is planning to review the preparedness, response, and recovery phases of the emergency at a later date. It has already identified that communications between Central Government in Suva and the Northern and Eastern Divisions are vulnerable and need to be strengthened, possibly through the supply of alternative means of communication such as satellite telephones to key divisional and district headquarters. Also of concern to Government was people's failure to heed the cyclone warnings, which suggests that more public education and awareness is needed.

24. The NDMO is considering pre-positioning stocks of relief supplies at strategic locations and the potential costs and benefits of the government owning an aircraft, since there is only one helicopter available for hire in the country. The NDMO has also suggested that key individuals in isolated communities need basic training so that they can conduct initial damage assessment themselves, and that it needs improved facilities, office and telecommunications equipment in the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), and in divisional EOCs. A national contingency fund would also increase flexibility and accelerate the response in the crucial first few days of an emergency.

General Information

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

26. The OCHA Regional Disaster Response Adviser remains in contact with the NDMO and other key actors but, unless there are unforeseen developments, this is the final situation report on this disaster.

27. 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

Mr. R. Müller / Mr. S. Nakajima
Direct Tel. +41-22-917 31 31 / 40 34

Press contact:

(in GVA) Ms Madeleine Moulin Acevedo, direct Tel. +41-22-917 3160
(in N.Y.) Ms. Stephanie Bunker, direct Tel. +1-212-963 87 40


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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