Severe damage at Kiribati hospital due to coastal flooding
Giant waves are to blame for severe damage caused at a Kiribati hospital.
The Kiribati Public Health Department says the damage to one of only two hospital's on South Tarawa is so severe, it will take at least a fortnight to repair.
It says Betio Hospital was left in a state of disarray after disastrous waves flooded the hospital on the 20th of February.
The extensive damage meant patients had to be evacuated, and all medical services for the hospital suspended, with patients moved to a sports complex for treatment.
Michael Foon, with the Kiribati national disaster management office, says the waves destroyed the hospital's maternity ward, toilet block and part of the sea-wall built to protect it.
Michael Foon spoke with Leilani Momoisea about the on-going clean-up, and the re-building of the seawall.
MICHAEL FOON: I think the option really is to look at more permanent solutions for like putting wave breakers around the area but this is more like a long term plan to just solve the problem.
LEILANI MOMOISEA: What are wavebreakers? What does that involve?
MF: It involves structures like tripods to be put infront of the seawall to break the wave energy before it reaches the sea wall because we think that, that might help. When dealing with very big waves it sort of takes away the energy before it goes and smash the sea wall . Our maternity ward recently built by Australia at the center did sustain a lot of damages as well, the doors and the airconditioners and some of the equipments inside were all washed by the sea water when it comes in. I know at the moment that they are trying to build a wall to protect the maternity ward but I think with the kind of waves we have we will see more of this, this year and probably more in future.
LM: What can be done really? You talked about the wave breakers around the area, what else are you trying to do to sort of solve this issue?
MF: I think we have really limited options, the option really for future is to look at the latest engineering solutions to this problem. As I mentioned earlier is the wave breakers and maybe putting the sea wall a bit more higher than it is. I think I should mention also that, that particular sea water is close to health center is one of the highest on the island and being impacted like that you know it makes it hard for us to think of alternative future options.
LM: As you say you are expecting more of this throughout the year and next year that must be, very difficult to plan for?
MF: It is, it is the sort of predictions that we have with waves like reaching more than 2.9 metres is becoming more frequent. Last year we have only a few but this year we are forecasting like nine and probably we will see more in the future.
LM: Does this happen often that the hospital is damaged or is this something that..?
MF: It has happened before but not to this extent where the hospital is completely flooded and the surrounding area, resulted in powercuts . This is the first time that we've seen this sort of extensive flooding it caused maybe about 200 metres inshore.
LM: That must be quite scary for all of those people who were involved?
MF: It is and it's impacting people because they depend on water wells that are now salty. You start seeing breadfruit trees with brown leaves, dropping there leaves and fruits. It's very difficult to deal with these kind of issues. We are trying to mobilise people to clean up the roads and we are working very closely with the public works to determine the cost and carry out repairs before the next king tides. It's only a few weeks away.
The Public Health Department says New Zealand is assisting with the ongoing repairs, and a request has been sent to the local High Commission to speed up work.
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