Solomon Islands

Caritas Australia pledges support for Solomon Islands

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Caritas Australia will help rebuild Solomon Islands' communities devastated by Cyclone Zoe, Jack de Groot, National Director of Caritas Australia said today.
"Early reports suggest that there has been no loss of life. We are thankful for this. Caritas Australia extends its support and sympathy to all of those who have lost their homes and future food supplies because of the cyclone," Mr de Groot said.

The worst affected islands are Tikopia and Anuta Islands in Temotu Province. Located approximately 1000 kilometres east of Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands, these islands have a population of about 4,000 people.

At the height of the cyclone, winds of up to 300 kilometres an hour swept through the islands, destroying much in their path and devastating the homes and food crops of the islanders.

Archbishop Adrian Smith, Catholic Archbishop of Honiara, a diocese that includes Tikopia and Anutu Islands said that communications to the islands were cut by the cyclone.

"The people are used to rough weather. If they had enough warning that the cyclone was coming, I'm confident that they could get to safety", he said.

However, because of the devastation to crops, there will be an urgent need for food in a month's time when stores will be exhausted. There will also be a need for shelter and medical supplies, Archbishop Smith said.

Mr de Groot said the main challenge will be to ensure that relief supplies get to the islands which are difficult to access because of their isolated location.

The physical remoteness of the islands has made it difficult to assess the true extent of the damage. The Solomon Islands government has sent a boat to the island which should reach there later today.

Mr de Groot said that due to its work in East Timor and the Pacific region, Caritas Australia has developed expertise in re-building shelters quickly and cost efficiently. Caritas Australia also has a presence in the Solomon Islands, through existing aid projects.

"This means that we have the infrastructure and the skills to respond quickly, providing both rebuilding and financial aid where necessary," Mr de Groot said.

He said this will complement the $50,000 pledged by Australia's AusAid to help with the relief effort and other contributions by the Australian government.

Caritas Australia is receiving donations for the Solomon Islands disaster. The donations number is 1800 024 413.

Archbishop Smith is available to talk to the media. He can be contacted on: 0011 677 23436.

For further information please contact:

Justine McMahon, Caritas Australia
Phone: (02) 9956 5799
Email: justinem@caritas.org.au