Vanuatu + 4 more

Pacific: Tropical Cyclone Pam (MDR55001) Emergency Plan of Action Final Report

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A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

Tropical Cyclone Pam (TC Pam) struck Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, on Friday 13 March 2015, with Category 5 strength – the highest level rating for a severe tropical cyclone. It caused wide spread damage across the country’s six provinces (Shefa, Tafea, Malampa, Penama, Sanma and Torba). The eye of the cyclone passed 25 km south-west of Tanna an island in Vanuatu’s southernmost province (Tafea), with winds reaching an estimated speed of 250 kmph. The Government of Vanuatu issued a formal appeal for international assistance.

There were 11 confirmed deaths and several medical evacuation cases for health/trauma reasons from remote islands to Port Vila, where the main hospital sustained substantial damage. The number of people affected in the country was estimated at 188,000 and some 18,000 homes - both informal and semi-permanent - were destroyed or significantly damaged, leaving an estimated 90,000 people in need of shelter assistance. In the hardest hit islands, like Tongoa, Emae and Erromango, up to 90 per cent of houses were damaged.

The initial 30-day State of Emergency declared by Vanuatu’s President across the country’s six provinces was extended, mainly to cover ongoing food needs. By late April, the full extent of affected people and damage in the country had emerged with an estimated 68 per cent of rainwater harvesting catchment structures destroyed, and 70 per cent of wells contaminated and piped water systems damaged. Secondary health assessments have shown that the result of severed water catchment systems and damaged sanitation facilities has directly impacted on hygiene and sanitation practices. Up to 70 per cent of health facilities were damaged or destroyed and more than half of all schools assessed were damaged or destroyed. The result is an expected drop in normal health services and education, the latter affecting some 30,000 school students.

Additionally, key agricultural sectors sustained 70 to 80 per cent damage, significantly affecting the food security and livelihoods of a population highly reliant on subsistence farming. The government responded to the escalated need for emergency food aid.

Some reports indicated that in some areas there has been rapid reestablishment of shelter without properly addressing households’ vulnerability to future natural disasters. There was also significant shortage of natural building materials in the country resulting in slower rehabilitation and reconstruction.
While Vanuatu was hit the hardest, thousands more in four countries across the Pacific were affected by TC Pam and other weather systems including Tropical Cyclone Nathan and Tropical Storm Bavi.

In Kiribati, rough seas, combined with tidal movements prompted by TC Pam, resulted in widespread coastal flooding with extensive damage in the Kiribati capital, Tarawa. Power and mobile phone networks were only working intermittently when the impact commenced on 9 March and took several days to be restored. The four outer atolls of Tamana, Arorae, Onotoa and Nonouti in Southern Kiribati were struck by strong winds, causing extensive damage to houses, especially in Tamana, and inundations from storm surges. Tropical Storm Bavi was crossing the northern Pacific, and further influenced swells in the region. In April, a detailed recovery assessment was completed on the most affected island, Tamana by KRCS/IFRC.

In the second week of May, another assessment on Onotoa Island revealed that the remaining and on-going issues were water contamination (brackish or underground water); land erosion, seawater flooding to crops and plantations (breadfruit, coconut trees and bwabwai). More than 80 per cent of wells were badly affected. Assessments indicated that Tamana was the hardest hit, with 65 homes completely destroyed, 42 damaged, water wells contaminated and toilets collapsed. Aurorae suffered damage to teacher housing and a handful of private homes, as did Onotoa.

In Papua New Guinea, two provinces experienced flooding and landslides due to the overall weather system associated with Tropical Cyclone Pam as well as Tropical Cyclone Nathan. Reports indicate that approximately 8,750 people were affected in West New Britain, with approximately 210 people were affected in the Madang region on mainland Papua, and 239 people in the National Capital District, the location of Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby, were also affected. Initial assessments indicated an urgent need for food, jerry cans, mosquito nets and tarpaulins.

In Solomon Islands, TC Pam created strong winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges that impacted the provinces of Temotu and Malaita. More than 5,300 people were affected, with damage to fruit trees, food gardens, agricultural crops, houses, water supply, infrastructure and communications. People living near the coast were evacuated. On 7 April, initial assessments were completed. Outbreaks of diarrhea were reported in some of the islands in Temotu and communities in Malaita due to the lack of clean drinking water.

In Tuvalu, the effects of TC Pam caused sea swells, storm surges and saltwater intrusion across eight islands. Prolonged sea swells and storm surges impacted Funafuti, Nanumea, Nanumaga, Niutao, Nui, Vaitupu, Nukufetau and Nukulaelae atolls. The sea waves, estimated to be from three to five meters in height, caused significant damage to agriculture and infrastructure. Water supplies were contaminated and hundreds of people were temporarily displaced, food crops were damaged and boulders, coral and other debris were deposited inland. Land losses due to coastal erosion were also experienced with some islands reporting as much as 20 to 50 meters sea encroachments. The situation prompted the authorities to declare a state of emergency for two weeks, until 27 March. Initial assessment by Tuvalu Red Cross Society (TRCS) was completed in all eight affected islands. A more detailed recovery assessment was completed mid-May, with subsequent visits to support recovery activities to the most affected island, Nui, by TRCS staff and volunteers with one international delegate, all of which has informed this plan of action.