Vanuatu - Earthquake/Tsunami OCHA Situation Report No. 3

Situation Report
Originally published
Ref. OCHA/GVA - 99/0259
Vanuatu - Earthquake / Tsunami
OCHA Situation Report No. 3
21 December 1999

General Situation

Ongoing effects of the disaster

1. On Pentecost Island, villagers are currently relocating 6km inland from Bay Martelli (population 270), to mitigate the threat of future tsunami, and from St. Henrie (population 2-300) on the southeast coast, because of the risk of landslide. Inhabitants of other villages in the centre, south and east, remain afraid of landslides precipitated by further tremors, and have not yet resumed gardening. On Ambrym Island the village of Konkon in the northeast (population 120) has evacuated and will relocate due to the threat of mudslides from the peak above. An aftershock on 13 December 1999 caused land-slips which damaged food gardens belonging to the villages of Fancever, Linpul, Ranon, Ranvetlam,and Vanlap. On Paama Island, the main concern is that ground-shaking will have damaged root-crops, reducing the yield of these crops for up to 6 months.

Secondary Threats

2. Although the earthquake caused a large uplift (80cm) of Southeastern Ambrym and land subsidence and the appearance of substantial cracks in the north, scientific investigation has revealed these cracks to be land-slips, and that continuing tremors are seismic rather than volcanic. The risk of volcanic eruption is reported to be no greater than normal. However, the land uplift has exposed the reef platform to the air, causing it to dry out and die, and it has lowered the water table, which may lead to water shortages in future.

National Response

Assessment and emergency management

3. After the Government's disaster declaration on 27 November 1999, operational management of the national reponse was quickly assumed by the Police Force, under the overall direction of a National Disaster Executive Committee (NDEC). In the first phase of the emergency, many assessments were undertaken by different agencies in order to satisfy their own response planning requirements. These were initiated largely independently and, consequently, the information gathered did not always satisfy wider coordination requirements. The more detailed reports concentrated on damage without linking these to needs, whilst others were of general nature which pointed to major areas of need, but did not provide the necessary quantitative information. More cross-sectoral analysis of the incoming reports would have facilitated earlier prioritisation of appropriate relief assistance, although as the relief operation got underway more effective coordination was evident, particularly in the planning for the recovery programme.

Assistance provided

4. Assistance has been provided to many communities on Pentecost, notably Bay Barrie, Bay Martelli, Enkul, Enna, Levetlis and Tsintete, Melsisi, Narua, Point Cross, Ranwas, St. Henrie and Tanbok. Some food has been supplied to Paama Island, and food and bags of assorted clothing have gone to communities in North and Southeast Ambrym. Further substantial relief is unlikely to be provided, as the focus is shifting to recovery. The relief coordination and distribution base established at Lonoror airstrip in East Pentecost, was scaled back from 16 police personnel and 12 provincial/local government staff on 15 December. Six policemen and a number of civilians will remain at this station for up to 6 more weeks, to facilitate monitoring and to support the technical assessment teams.

Transition from relief to recovery

5. The national response to the disaster is shifting from the relief to the rehabilitation and recovery phase, and relevant government departments including Public Works, Health, and Rural Water Supply are currently conducting a 6 day multi-sectoral assessment of recovery needs on Pentecost, Paama and Ambrym. Their findings will be consolidated in a report coordinated by the Department of Economic and Social Development, which should itemise the cost of rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Monitoring future threats

6. The Department of Geology is continuing to monitor the possibility of volcanic eruption on Ambrym and other islands, but scientific investigation two weeks after the earthquake indicated that the risk was no greater than normal. The team did, however, highlight the large number of unstable slopes threatening gardens and villages, and it reinforced the decision to relocate Konkon Village in Northeast Ambrym.


Relief and recovery

7. Immediate needs have essentially been met from local community self-help, island, provincial and national resources, with some international assistance. Aside from continuing to monitor the progress of the worst affected communities - Bay Martelli, Enkul, Enna, Melsisi, Ranwas, St. Henrie and Konkon - most longer-term needs should be identified by the joint technical assessment, which is currently looking at the requirements for recovery in each sector. This should quantify the resources required to restore damaged water supplies, health posts and schools, and for new facilities in those villages which are relocating. It should consider access requirements, and indicate overall food availability over the next 6 months, and the impact of losses of agricultural land on livelihoods, specifically on Paama Island. The subsequent recovery programme could support community reconstruction efforts by including government-sponsored incentives such as tax exemptions, the bulk purchase (or free supply) of limited tools and materials, and a mechanism to ensure sustainable utilisation of bush materials.


8. The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has requested assistance from the Suva-based South Pacific Disaster Reduction Programme in the production of a volcanic disaster response plan for Ambrym Island, which has been recognised as an urgent requirement. Further needs include training in standard post-disaster damage and needs assessment procedures, and acting upon other important lessons learned for the future.

International Response

Scientific survey

9. The South Pacific Applied Geo-Science Commission (SOPAC) coordinated a team of Japanese and American scientists, which surveyed sites affected by the earthquakes and associated tsunami. This data will be combined with information on landslides and other ground deformation observed in satellite and aerial photographs, and seabed bathymetry collected in the 1980s, to determine the precise cause and geological effects of this event.

Bilateral assistance

10. The Government is unlikely to request any further immediate relief assistance and no changes are reported to the table summarising international contributions, published in OCHA Situation Report No.2 dated 9 December 1999. The Department of Economic and Social Development will coordinate the rehabilitation and reconstruction programme, and where the costs cannot be met from within national resources, donor assistance will be sought, initially through a meeting provisionally scheduled for 6 January 2000

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

11. Thanks to funds donated to the International Federation preliminary appeal 33/99 by the United Kingdom Department for International Development, the Vanuatu Red Cross Society has been able to re-stock its Disaster Preparedness containers across the country.

United Nations

12. An OCHA emergency grant of US$ 10,000 was used to purchase immediate relief items, basic household possessions and tools, and transport them to Bay Martelli, to help the families which lost everything in the tsunami to start rebuilding their homes at a safer site further inland. The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team spent 10 days in Port Vila assisting the NDEC in response coordination, primarily by making a cross-sectoral analysis of all reports produced to date, and by indicating priorities in outstanding relief, and medium- to long-term recovery needs.

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

14. 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.

15. This is the last situation report on this disaster unless there are unforeseen developments. 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

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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