Vanuatu - Earthquake/Tsunami OCHA Situation Report No. 2

Situation Report
Originally published
Ref. OCHA/GVA - 99/0248
Vanuatu - Earthquake/Tsunami
OCHA Situation Report No. 2
9 December 1999

General situation

1. Impact

Aftershocks to the 27 November earthquake have continued to affect Penama Province in the northeast of Vanuatu. Significant landslides have occurred not only on Pentecost, but also on Ambrym, Paama and Epi Islands, where damage to houses, roads, and water supply systems, has been reported.

2. Casualties

The confirmed death toll is ten. Five were killed at Ena Village in the earthquake, and five in the tsunami at Martelli Bay at Southern Pentecost. A 17 year old woman is in a critical condition in intensive care in Vila Hospital, but she is responding to treatment.

3. Secondary threats

The major secondary threat is that posed by the volcano on Ambrym Island (population: 9,000). During the earthquake its two cones, Marum and Benbow, ejected their crater lakes down dry gullies. New fissures have developed on the flanks of the mountainous peninsula to the north, and the volcano now displays signs of heightened activity. Villagers are reportedly on the move, but no details are yet available.

National Response

4. Assessment staff of the Department of Health conducted a detailed assessment of damage on Pentecost Island, looking not only at health needs but also at other sectors and damage to infrastructure. Their report recommended immediate relief assistance to the people of Martelli Bay, the relocation of the population of St Henrie currently threatened by landslides, the provision of safe water supply to villages in central Pentecost, the repair of rural health centres and schools, and the restoration of access and communications. A New Zealand army engineer has just completed an assessment of both immediate and longer-term needs on Paama, using the same format. However, government departments will still have to carry out their own technical assessments to determine rehabilitation requirements, such as that currently being conducted by the Ministry of Works.

5. Assistance provided

All relief stocks have now been dispatched to the operating base at Lonoror airstrip on the east coast of Pentecost, where it is then transferred to small motorboats for distribution.This base will be withdrawn on 14 December. Some redistribution from Pentecost may be necessary, to affected communities on Paama and Ambrym Islands, but this will depend on further assessment of their needs.

6. Monitoring Future Threats

The Department of Geology is conducting an evaluation of the impact of the earthquake and aftershocks on all the volcanoes in the affected region. These are located along the edges of the section of the tectonic plate which is believed to have shifted, causing a rise of up to 80 centimetres in the northern tip of Ambrym Island and a corresponding drop at the southern end of Pentecost. If the risk of eruption is confirmed, then a response plan must be put in place, which will include provision for evacuation.

7. NGOs and National Red Cross

Vanuatu Red Cross Society (VRC) has donated the contents of its Disaster Preparedness containers in country, and currently has a health specialist and a water and sanitation engineer carrying out further, more detailed assessment on Pentecost.

8. Emergency Management

The Government declared Malampa and Penama Provinces to be a disaster zone following damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami, on 27 November 1999. Twelve days later the disaster response operation, ('Penam-Quake'), is still continuing. However, the National Disaster Executive Committee (NDEC) is keen to ensure a transition to rehabilitation and recovery within the next week..


9. Immediate/Longer-term

Neither the communities on Paama nor those on Ambrym (where needs have not yet been assessed) have received any outside assistance. Villages on Paama have suffered damage to houses and water supply systems but, for the moment, people have access to adequate shelter, food and water, by relying on their neighbours. Provision of sufficient safe water is the most pressing need, and more water containers are required. In the slightly longer-term, the people will need materials to effect repairs to houses, and new water tanks. The Department of Rural Water Supply has ordered the local production of 100 fibre-glass tanks, to follow the 26 (1,000 l tanks) already shipped to Pentecost. Restoration of road access is another pressing requirement. The authorities are considering the complete resettlement of the Martelli Bay communities (270 persons/56 households) to a new site further from the coast, and this population will need sustained assistance, particularly with the re-establishment of livelihoods, until they have recovered self-sufficiency.

International Response

10. Bilateral assistance

The Government of Vanuatu officially requested assistance from its main development partners, both for the immediate relief operation and the longer-term rehabilitation programme, on 29 November 1999. International assistance contributed to date is summarised in the table below. The donors are now awaiting more information on the Government's intentions before contributing additional funds, but they have indicated their willingness to support reconstruction.They are also prepared to provide appropriate assistance if the Ambrym volcano does erupt.

11. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an appeal for CHF 188,000 (USD 123,900) in cash, in-kind, and in services, to meet the priority needs of 1,000 beneficiaries for 5 months, and to replenish stocks of relief items held in-country.

12. United Nations

OCHA has allocated an emergency grant of US Dollars 10,000, which will be used for the transport of relief items purchased and donated locally, and for the purchase of some additional materials, possibly tarpaulins and/or water containers. A three-person United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team is currently in Port Vila, assisting the coordination of the response efforts, and the transition from emergency relief operations to a recovery programme.

International Contributions Table

Contributed by Contributed through Type of contribution Value (USD)
OCHA UNDP/Government Emergency cash grant 10,000
- - One UNDAC mission N/A
UNDP (DRRP) - One UNDAC member N/A
Australia Government Food 3,940
- Government Water puritabs (x25,000) 1,340
- Government Relief flights (charter x 2) 3,400
- Government Volcanic risk evaluation flight 1,810
China Government Household items, food 2,760
France - Helicopter assessment (Puma) 25,000
- Government Water containers 400
- Government Water puritabs (x 15,000) 800
New Zealand Government Food 5,090
Solomon Islands - One UNDAC member N/A
United Kingdom International Federation Cash contribution to Appeal 50,000
International Vanuatu Red Cross Relief Emergency Funds (cash) 32,680
Federation Vanuatu Red Cross Disaster preparedness stores 19,000

Total (approximately) 156,220

Current UN exchange rate is 127.08 Vatu to the US Dollar.

13. OCHA is prepared to serve as channel for cash contributions to be used for immediate relief assistance, in coordination/consultation with relevant organizations in the United Nations system. Funds should be transferred to OCHA account No. CO-590.160.0, Swift code : UBSWCHZ12 A at the UBS AG, P.O. Box 2770, CH-1211 Geneva 2, with the reference: OCHA-Vanuatu- Earthquake/Tsunami. OCHA provides donors with written confirmation and pertinent details concerning the utilization of the funds contributed.

14. Donors are requested to inform OCHA Geneva, as indicated below, of bilateral relief missions/pledges/contributions and their corresponding values by item.

15. The international assistance, which has been reported to OCHA as of today, may be found by clicking on Financial Tracking at the top of the page for this disaster on the OCHA Internet Website ( Given that information on contributions reaches OCHA Geneva from multiple sources, donors are urged to verify this table and inform OCHA of corrections/additions/values, as required. Donors are requested to notify OCHA Geneva of any further contributions to this disaster using the 'OCHA Standardized Contributions Recording Format', available electronically in the above mentioned Financial Tracking Website.

16. This situation report and further information on ongoing emergencies are also available on the OCHA Internet Website at

Telephone number: +41-22-917 12 34

In case of emergency: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officers: Ms. S. Metzner-Strack/Mr. R. Mueller/Mr. S. Matsuka, OCHA Disaster Response Branch, direct Tel. +41-22-917 21 44 / 917 31 31 / 917 40 34

Press contact: Ms. E. Ponomareva, direct Tel. +41-22-917 23 36

Fax: +41-22-917 00 23

E-mail: ochagva at

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