OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Solomon Islands - Cyclone BENI
occurred: 26-28 January 2003
This situation report is based on information provided by the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), through the OCHA Regional Disaster Response Adviser for the Pacific.
Event and Impact
1. On Sunday 26 January, Tropical Cyclone BENI passed within 90 km of the eastern tip of Rennell, the Solomon Islands at about 1600 hours local time (0500 GMT). The cyclone, then Category 2 (the fourth strongest of the five categories), caused continuous torrential rain, high winds, and rough seas with heavy swell to the islands of Rennell (population:1,260) and Bellona (population:750) for a 48 hour period as the cyclone hovered nearby. The sustained wind speed on the morning of Monday 27 January was 90-110 km/hr.
2. According to reports received by radio from Tingoa, the provincial centre, and settlements such as Lavangu, the locals took shelter in caves on higher ground and a recently built cyclone-resistant classroom near Lake Tengano on Rennell. No casualties have been reported, however, 85 semi-permanent buildings sustained significant damage, and 55 families lost items of property.
3. Tree crops such as coconuts, papaya and banana fared badly, and key dietary staples including the sweet potato crop have also been damaged by flooding of the villages and gardens around the lake, and by saltwater inundation of low-lying areas. Some families are reported to have food stocks sufficient for only three days, and all islanders are expected to become short of food over forthcoming weeks.
4. Cyclone BENI has developed to a Category 4 (the second strongest of the five) with wind speeds estimated at 185 km/hr close to its centre. It is tracking southeast at 13 km/hr and expected to continue tracking south-southeast towards New Caledonia and Vanuatu.
5. The Solomon Islands Meteorological Service played a critical role in tracking the storm. It issued its first weather warning with practical information on preparing for the cyclone on the morning of Saturday 25 January. The Service and the National Disaster Council (NDC) issued 21 warnings in total, as the cyclone passed through the Solomon Islands. Specific gale warnings were issued for Rennell and Bellona as well as Makira and South Guadalcanal.
6. The NDMO activated its cyclone response plan on 25 January, and placed a number of national agencies on standby. It contacted a radio station on West Rennell and the Provincial Police Commander at Tingoa to pass the warning messages. Radio contact with the islands was maintained during the storm. The NDMO is now monitoring the situation on Rennell and Bellona closely, at the same time as managing the transition to the recovery phase of the operation on Tikopia and Anuta after Cyclone Zoë. The next delivery of supplies to these islands is expected in a week.
7. Any relief operation for the two islands will be subject to an assessment by the Central Control Group (CCG), which can be despatched now that the storm has moved away.
8. The Government of Solomon Islands has not made any request for international assistance.
9. The Government of New Zealand despatched an Orion surveillance aircraft on 28 January, which revealed minor damage on Rennell and Bellona.
10. Australian officials in Canberra, Honiara, and Port Vila are also monitoring Cyclone BENI, and the Government stands ready to assist the relevant authorities in any Pacific island country in their assessment of and response to any critical emergency needs.
11. The OCHA Regional Disaster Response Adviser is in contact with the NDMO in Honiara, and will revert with further information, if available.
12. This situation report, together with information on other ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int
Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23
In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10
Mr. R. M=FCller / Mr. S. Nakajima
Direct Tel. +41-22-917 31 31 / 40 34
(in GVA) - Ms. Elizabeth Byrs, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53
(in N.Y.) - Ms. Stephanie Bunker, direct Tel. +1-212-963 87 40
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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