OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Samoa - Floods
15 - 16 April 2001
The Samoa National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) provided the following information via UNDP Apia and the office of the OCHA Regional Disaster Response Advisor for the Pacific in Suva, Fiji. The following report contains extracts from an offical report released by the Apia Meteorology Division published in the local Observer newspaper on 19 April 2001.
Situation and Damage
1. Around midnight on Sunday 15 April 2001 heavy flash floods inundated the lowlands around the town of Lepea and Moataa and rivers and streams also overflowed causing flooding along the Upolu coast from Lepea to Falefa in the east and Siumu in the south.
2. According to the Meteorology Division, the mass of water rushing down narrow riverbeds and streams to the open sea was the uphit of an unpredictable micro-weather system. The Meteorological Division does not have sufficiently sophisticated meteorological equipment at its disposal for the detection of this type of weather phenomenon. Cycles of this type last between 30 minutes and 6 hours, depending on the prevailing atmospheric environmental conditions. Mini cells re-constitute themselves and supply their own energy when atmospheric conditions favour their development. Micro-weather systems can only be detected with hi-tech weather watch radar instruments. Where these are in place advisory or warning forecasts can be broadcast up to two hours ahead for severe weather or thunderstorms.
3. At midnight on 15 April rain measurements at Apia wharf reached 1.092 metres, and for the next two hours the water level topped the 1 metre mark. With the impact of the high tide, the water overflowed into vulnerable areas, especially areas with frail sedimentation. A level of 200 millimetres of rainfall was recorded. The event has been recorded by the Meteorology Division as an unusual case serving to highlight the need for further scientific research into tropical weather patterns for Samoa.
4. Most schools around Apia, especially those located close to rivers (such as Vaisigano and Vaimoso) were temporarily closed for lack of water for drinking and sanitation purposes. The Congregational Senior College near the Vaisigano River was completely covered in mud and the school closed for 2 weeks. Alternative arrangements have been made for schooling to be conducted in one of the Congregational Church's main halls. All those affected by the floods have been heavily occupied with clean up operations over the last few days. Families and neighbours have lent each other considerable support.
5. So far no deaths have been reported as a result of the floods. The initial lack of potable water presented a problem in many areas but people overcame this obstacle by obtaining water from unaffected neighboring areas. The Samoa Water Authority has estimated USD 1.5 million in damages to the water supply system but no clear details have emerged concerning damage to other sectors.
National and International Response
6. A state of emergency has not been declared and nor has the Central Control Group assembled to discuss the event. In the meantime, the national police, fire and rescue services have been providing immediate assistance to those in need including the evacuation of some families from flood areas in the Vaivase area.
7. OCHA is in contact with relevant government authorities in Samoa and UNDP Apia through its Regional Disaster Response Advisor for the Pacific, and will revert with further information when available.
8. This situation report, together with information on other ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int
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