Fiji + 5 more

Pacific resilience in the face of disaster

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Situation Report
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Posted
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TC PAM

  • The eye of category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam passed close to Efate Island in Shefa Province, where the capital Port Vila is located one year ago.

  • The cyclone recorded winds of around 250 km per hour, and gusts peaking at 320 km per hour.

  • 188,000 people were affected and 11 people died.

  • Early warning systems and the provision of evacuation centres by the Government of Vanuatu prevented a higher death toll.

TC WINSTON

  • On 20 and 21 Feb, Cat 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston hit Fiji.

  • Winston was the strongest cyclone to make landfall in the Pacific.

  • Whole villages have been destroyed, especially on the hardest hit outer islands.

  • 350,000 people or 40 per cent of the population are affected.

  • 250,000 people are without access to water and sanitation.

A year after Tropical Cyclone Pam cut a path of destruction across Vanuatu, Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, the Pacific is again grappling with the devastating aftermath of a Category 5 cyclone – the worst ever to hit the South Pacific. After impacting on the islands of central Tonga, Tropical Cyclone Winston unleashed its El Niño-fueled fury on Fiji on 20-21 February, killing more than 40 people and leaving 40 per cent of the population in humanitarian need. Like the people of Vanuatu a year ago, Fijians are again proving the Pacific’s resilience to the natural disasters which are affecting the region with increasing unpredictability.

Rebuilding after the storm

Village Headman Simione Koroicakau looks out with tears in his eyes at all that is left of his once-beautiful coastal community of Verevere on the north east coast of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu.

“After the cyclone, my village has gone down to almost ground zero. Living is very difficult at the moment. Everything is gone. Now the people are crying for their houses so they can get back to normal life. It’s very difficult for us to start but we are confident to carry on,” Mr Koroicakau said.

Every building in this village was damaged and the vast majority destroyed as TC Winston battered the coast. More than a hundred people are currently living in tents and a small local hall but it’s a situation the village headman knows can’t continue.

“You can see now that we started building our houses. At the moment, the whole village still lives in the community hall. It’s not a very big hall. It’s overcrowded and there’s a risk of disease too,” he said.

Neighbouring forestry plantations provide the perfect materials for a longer-term rebuilding effort but there remains a need for more tools and equipment.

“We need some chainsaws or a portable sawmill because we’ve got a mahogany forest here that’s all destroyed and we can use it up,” he said.

Shelter Assessments1 conducted within weeks of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu revealed a similar capacity for self-recovery with almost three quarters of affected people reporting that they had carried out their own housing repairs.

“Pacific Islanders are extremely resilient and are keen to get on with the task of rebuilding their homes. Shelter supplies funded through the UN’s Central Emergency Relief Fund have arrived in Fiji and include tarpaulins, tools and fixings to support people to get back on their feet. An Emergency Cash Grant has also funded US$50,000 in equipment for clearing debris including chainsaws. Fijians face a long road to recovery and have our full support as they rebuild,” Humanitarian Coordinator, Osnat Lubrani said.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.