No of people affected: 52,000
No of people to be assisted: 21,000
DREF allocated: CHF 158,099
Glide n° FL-2014-000045-SLB
Operation budget: CHF 684,278
Solomon Islands flash floods impact: Prolonged heavy rainfall associated with a tropical depression passing over the Solomon Islands on 3 April 2014 resulted in severe flooding in the capital Honiara and the northern Guadalcanal Plains. Associated damage was also recorded in the Guadalcanal region, together with the Makira, Malaita and Isabel Provinces.
The flooding caused the deaths of 22 people (18 in Honiara, 2 in Guadalcanal and 2 in Isabel Province; with several people still recorded as missing). The flooding also caused significant injuries, and trauma for people who were caught in, or witnessed the flooding.
The flooding resulted in massive destruction and damage to public infrastructure, homes, water sources, sanitation facilities, livelihoods and agriculture.
The first responders were the people and communities living and working in the destructive path of the floods, who tried to warn others, assisted in rescuing people and supported many to reach safety. Many extended families, friends and neighbours have offered their home to host families to those who had lost their homes.
An estimated 52,000 people were known to be affected by the floods across the Solomon Islands (total population 515,870). Initially, around 12,000 people were displaced, who primarily sought emergency shelter within the evacuation centres.
There were 27 evacuation centres at the commencement of the response, which generally were schools, and also included community halls and the Festival of the Pacific Arts (FOPA) village at the Solomon Islands National University.
The Solomon Islands Red Cross Society (SIRCS) and Participating National Societies (PNS) staff and volunteers were equally caught within the flooding. They assisted people to get out of the flood waters and reach safety, and evacuated the flooded offices. Some staff and volunteers also had their homes flooded, and other key workers were cut off from Honiara.
When the SIRCS’s headquarters (HQ) were flooded, an alternative emergency operations centre was established in the Honiara Hotel during the first few days of the response. The SIRCS HQ was later cleaned and emergency operations were able to be reinstated to be run out of the HQ office.1 Shelter2 damage from the flooding was significant.
Shelter was estimated to represent approximately 56 per cent of the total value of monetary damages. This was 2.5 times greater than the transport sector (the next most affected sector), 20 times greater than the combined health and education sectors, and 25 times greater than the water and sanitation sector3. Response phase assessments identified that 758 houses were totally destroyed and 638 houses suffered significant but reparable damage. Many more household kitchens, which are generally smaller detached out-buildings, were also destroyed, resulting in the loss of household cooking equipment.
National disaster was declared on 3 April, when the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) declared Honiara and other areas of Guadalcanal a disaster zone. On 5 April SIG requested the regional support of the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT). Aid personnel and supplies began arriving from 6 April after Honiara International Airport was reopened. SIG lead the response with the support of the PHT, UN Agencies, Solomon Islands Red Cross Society (SIRCS), national and international non-governmental organisations and donor partners. A humanitarian action plan (HAP) was developed and endorsed by SIG in late April 2014.
The people of the Solomon Islands are renowned for their ability to endure hardships, and start their lives again after disasters. They demonstrate strong community spirit, built upon their durable family and church bonds. Many people within the Solomon Islands also experience a range of vulnerabilities that include high unemployment (resulting in poverty), lack of land rights and lack of safe drinking water. Many live in very basic homes with unsafe structure, and have poor sanitation practices and inadequate health services.
Loss of homes and incomes as a result of the flash flooding has exacerbated poverty issues on multiple levels. Limited resources are preventing people from rebuilding or repairing their homes, accessing basic community services (such as health) as well as maintaining or regaining household assets such as land ownership.
Despite the efforts of many actors including SIRCS (in conjunction with the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement) government agencies, along with national and international actors, not all of the communities needs are able to be met due to the limitations of the resources available. Never the less, the activities and services provided through the coordinated efforts of all these actors by their collective available resources, has alleviated the effects of the floods for many beneficiaries and assisted them to recover.
SIRCS is a legally constituted association, officially recognised by the government as a voluntary relief society and auxiliary to the public authorities within the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society Act of 1983. The National Society has an identified role in the national disaster risk management plan.
Previous to these flash floods, SIRCS had 86 active volunteers, 33 staff and 4 branches, with an established high profile in disaster response. In 2013, the SIRCS played a key role in responding to the Temotu earthquake and dengue outbreak. Another large response operations managed by SIRCS was the 2007 tsunami. SIRCS earned great respect for its neutrality and independence during the country’s ethnic tensions between 1999 and 2003.
Above and beyond that, SIRCS has been actively responding to smaller disasters and dengue outbreaks throughout the Solomon Islands since being founded in 1983.