The passage of the tropical cyclone Haruna in February 2013, which affected over 40,000 people in Madagascar, has again highlighted the dangers of chemical and industrial accidents and spills following natural disasters. On 27 March, the European Commission Monitoring and Information Centre received an official request for assistance from the joint UNEP/OCHA Environmental Emergencies Section (a collaborative arrangement between the United Nations Environment Programme and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) working with the Government of Madagascar and immediately activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
In response to the request for additional expertise to join a scoping mission to the cyclone-hit country, three experts were nominated by the Participating States. The selected French EU civil protection expert will now join the UNEP/OCHA mission departing 6 April and spend five days in the field from 8-12 April. The team will be assessing the overall situation including environmental, institutional, legal and capacity implications and will be helping the government of Madagascar to develop a prevention programme and response plan for chemical and industrial accidents. The European Commission Monitoring and Information Centre has also activated the Copernicus/GMES Emergency Mapping Service to support this mission with satellite images.
This active assistance will contribute to avoiding major chemical and industrial disasters in the future.
Madagascar, the world’s fourth biggest island, is prone to cyclones and tropical storms, particularly during the rainy season between January and April. This year saw the strongest tropical cyclone so far, Haruna, hit the south-west coast of the island in February.
The European Commission immediately allocated €200 000 from its World-Wide Decision on Humanitarian Aid to provide the most vulnerable with life-saving assistance such as water, hygiene and sanitation facilities, and shelter working through its humanitarian partners on the ground.
On 20 February 20, the government of Madagascar issued a request for assistance to the UN for a scoping mission to assess the imminent threats, possible responses, preparedness and prevention measures, focusing on possible secondary hazards and impacts of natural disasters on its industry.
In the context of frequent natural disasters, the country's mining and industrial sector faces an increased risk of potential chemical or industrial accidents as well as the risk of secondary spills. The city of Toamasina, in the region of Atsinanana on the eastern coast of Madagascar, is the second largest city of the country with the most important seaport. The presence and transportation of chemical products in this disaster-prone area could cause imminent threats to the population.
Since 2010, Madagascar has also benefited from the European Commission disaster preparedness programme for Southern Africa known as "DIPECHO" from which €5 million has been allocated to prepare the population and national authorities for future disasters and develop an adequate system for responding to them.
About the EU Civil Protection Mechanism
The European Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response among 32 European states (EU-27 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Norway). The participating countries pool the resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world. When activated, the Mechanism coordinates the provision of assistance inside and outside the European Union. The European Commission manages the Mechanism through the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC).
Since its launch in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has monitored over 289 disasters and has received more than 170 requests for assistance.
The European Commission supports and complements the prevention and preparedness efforts of participating states in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, focusing on areas where a common European approach is more effective than separate national approaches.