Six months ago, Tropical Cyclone Evan devastated Fiji and Samoa. Heavy rain and winds of up to 270 kilometres per hour caused storm surges and waves up to four metres high. Thousands of people across both countries were displaced by the disaster which damaged or destroyed around 10,000 homes.
In response, Australia has committed a total of $11.65 million in emergency supplies and funding to support affected communities in their immediate and long-term recovery. In February, Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr visited Samoa and announced further assistance to the Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC) that will help with continuing efforts to rebuild.
Training has already begun for 15 selected students at the APTC Samoa campus, including two women, to gain skills and qualifications in carpentry. As part of their course, students and staff are working in three village areas to rebuild more than 1,000 shelters for families affected by Cyclone Evan.
Australian assistance is also being used to repair vital infrastructure and rebuild schools and health clinics in Samoa, allowing 5,300 students to continue their studies and 25,000 people to access health care.
In Fiji, Australian funds are supporting 17,000 students by replacing textbooks, repairing damaged buildings and providing school grants to 42 primary schools. Hospitals which service more than 470,000 people were also repaired.
Commitment and coordination
Last month, Australia announced the deployment of a team of technical specialists including engineers and disaster relief experts to be deployed through the Australian Civilian Corps to help conduct assessments. These specialists will spend the next 12 months in Samoa to help with its long-term recovery from Cyclone Evan. 'Six months on, it’s great to see the relief supplies which were provided still in use as people repair their homes and businesses,' said Frances Sutherland, AusAID’s Disaster Response Coordinator in Samoa. 'Our funding and technical support, including through the Australian Civilian Corps, has enabled the Government of Samoa to commence a national recovery program.'
Cyclone Evan caused an estimated $200 million worth of damage across Fiji and Samoa. Responding to disasters on such a scale requires a huge level of commitment and coordination from all involved. AusAID staff at posts in Fiji and Samoa worked with the local government and partners on the ground to assess the situation quickly. Members of the AusAID Rapid Response Team (a cross disciplined group of staff in Canberra who can be deployed at a moment’s notice) joined the efforts in both countries.