Vanuatu - Earthquake/Tsunami OCHA Situation Report No. 4

Situation Report
Originally published
OCHA/GVA - 2000/0004
Vanuatu - Earthquake / Tsunami
OCHA Situation Report No. 4
6 January 2000

General Situation

Ongoing effects of the disaster

1. One month after the earthquake that struck Pentecost, Ambrym and Paama Islands, widespread landslides have affected Paama, a small 9 km by 4 km island with a population of 1,606. The earthquake of 27 November 1999 had caused large land-slips and wide cracks in hillsides across the island. These generated further slips after heavy rain on the night of 26 December. No one is reported missing or injured.

Immediate damage

2. Whilst the earthquake destroyed 92 houses and affected almost all households on Paama, damage from the recent landslides is reported to be concentrated in the northern half of the island. Mudflows 2-4m deep have damaged houses, schools and small shops, and buried food gardens, water catchment systems, wells and other water sources. Nearly all roads linking the villages are blocked in places, and though access on foot has been re-established, many paths are unsafe due to the risk of further slides. There is only one telephone line still in service for the entire island. In Liro village the kindergarten was destroyed, two teachers' houses, the island's junior secondary school and health centre were all damaged, including having their wells buried in mud. The school requires urgent attention before the beginning of term. In Luli and Lulep the water supply system is destroyed. Reported damage and numbers affected are as follows:

Village name:
Wells damaged
Total no. of
Affected no. of
% of total no of
repair needed
} 21
} 105
} 31%
} 42%
} 30
} 150
} 57%
} 77%

Effect on livelihoods

3. Paama is highly mountainous with rocky volcanic soil, which does not lend it to easy farming. The earthquake and continuing landslides have disturbed the main root-crops, including kava, a cash-crop, leaving them vulnerable to pests, drying-out in the sun, and further erosion by rain. The yields of these crops are likely to be significantly reduced, particularly in Northeast Paama where the landslides were most severe, and food shortages over the next 4-6 months are expected.

Secondary threats

4. The mudflows have blocked existing water-courses, causing water to pool and providing breeding areas for mosquitoes carrying malaria and dengue fever. Other water-borne disease outbreaks remain a possibility whilst access to potable water sources is restricted. More landslides during heavy rainfall are anticipated, with further effects on housing, agricultural production and access. The site of the telecommunications repeater station is very vulnerable, and the next rain could wash the whole system into the valley below.

National Response

Local coping

5. Communities are currently living of what they can salvage from their food gardens. Households that have lost their homes are currently sheltering in the nakamal (community halls) or with unaffected families. Communities have expressed their wish to rebuild as soon as possible, relying on the support of their neighbours.

Assessment and emergency management

6. Technical agencies and government departments were already conducting detailed sectoral assessments in order to plan the recovery from the earthquake. These included Paama's longer-term requirements, but following the latest event the Deputy Commissioner of Police conducted an assessment of damage and needs, from 27 to 30 December 1999. He supported the local decision of a number of communities to relocate back to earlier village sites. The island health officer has submitted a report on health requirements, and the National Disaster Management Office has compiled 4 situation reports to assist overall coordination. Technical agencies have also been tasked to reassess recovery requirements on Paama.

Assistance provided

7. Relief supplies including 625 kg of rice and 300 kg of flour provided by the Government, plus emergency stocks donated by the Vanuatu Red Cross Society, were distributed to affected communities on 29 December. The Government has allocated USD 7,870 as contingency funding for the immediate response and any other action necessitated by further secondary events. The Red Cross Society is on standby to assist with further supplies and has been requested to meet some of the immediate relief needs listed below.


Immediate relief

8. The health officer at Liro has requested the urgent replenishment of basic medical stocks, plus water purification tablets (50 boxes) and treated mosquito nets (200) against possible secondary threats. Other urgently needed items are tarpaulins (200), water containers (150), large water tanks (8). These have been requested from relevant departments and the Vanuatu Red Cross. Some 55 tonnes of rice will be required to supplement local food over the next 4 months. The provincial and national governments will provide 15 tonnes and the remainder has been requested from donors. Donors have also been requested to support the purchase of gardening and construction tools, household items such as blankets, clothing and cooking utensils, and seeds, for those who have lost their houses and many of their possessions.

Medium to longer-term recovery

9. Aside from monitoring the health and nutrition status of the affected communities, Malampa Provincial Government will need to conduct a detailed damage and future risk assessment to identify safe sites for the relocation of villages. The villagers are organising a self-help programme to coordinate assistance from less affected communities, and to provide manpower for the establishment of new village sites, the construction or repair of water catchments and wells, and the clearance of footpaths and roads. In the longer-term the national and provincial government will support the rehabilitation of roads, investigate new water sources, and consider mitigating the threat of future mudflows through watershed management and flood control works.

International Response

Bilateral assistance

10. No changes have been reported to the table summarising international contributions, published in OCHA Situation Report No.2 dated 9 December 1999. However, the Government has requested that donors support the provision of supplementary food until the end of April 2000, and that they fund the purchase of basic household items and tools to support the community self-help programme. In the longer-term they will be asked to assist with reconstruction, including road repairs, water supply and watershed management projects, and in other areas that may be identified by the technical agencies.

11. 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.

12. 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: Mr. Donato Kiniger-Passigli, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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