A. Situation analysis
Description of the disaster
Republic of Palau (RoP) is an island country in the western Pacific with a population of 18,008 people (2019), with the majority living on the main island Koror. The other populous islands are Anguar to the south, and Babeldaob and Peleliu to the north, along with the coral atoll Kayangel. In the southwest are Hatohobei and Soronsol. Tropical Disturbance (Invest 94W) centered southeast of Yap and Palau on 13 April, upgraded to a sever Tropical Storm 02W (Typhoon Surigae) on the 14 April 2021, and upgraded into Typhoon Surigae on the 16 April until 17 April. Typhoon Surigae was one of the strongest to form in the northern hemisphere before May and one of the most intense on record. It passed over the north of Palau closest to Kayangel state with up to 136 kilometers per hour sustained wind speeds causing heavy rainfall and swells, power outages, disrupted communication services, water cuts and road blockages from fallen debris, and landslides. All 16 states across the main island and the 5 outer islands have been affected by excessive rain and high winds, which blew roofs off houses and damaged critical water and power infrastructure in Anguar, Peleliu, Kayangel, and Koror. The storm produced large waves 23 meters / 75 feet high during its peak. It is estimated 1,500 homes have been damaged and 150 destroyed along with valuable belongings and farming investments. Only 10 per cent of Palau’s land is used for agriculture (2.7 per cent arable, 4.3 per cent crops, and 4.3 per cent pasture). Detailed damage information is still pending, but it is estimated that at least USD 2 million worth of infrastructure was damaged. This number is likely to increase once detailed assessments are completed. The National Emergency Committee (NEC) estimates damage at USD 4.8 million across sectors (health, infrastructure, education, food security, community/residential dwellings, communications and utilities). Click here to see the map of affected areas.
Around 301 people evacuated to 20 safe shelters, with no lives lost. Although Surigae was not as strong as previous Typhoons Bopha and Haiyam in 2012 and 2013, it has left its population significantly impacted due to its high vulnerability, the compounding economic impacts of COVID-19. Much of the population is also traumatized at the short notice provided to secure belongings and take cover. Authorities note that the typhoon followed an unusual trajectory. Assessments began by community Red Cross Disaster Action Teams (RDATs) in support of the state government immediately once the ‘all clear’ was given. The full extent of the level of damage in all 16 states is yet to be known however clean-up efforts have begun and are being locally managed at village and state level.