Hundreds return home following flooding in Marshall Islands

Originally aired on Dateline Pacific, Thursday 6 March 2014

Hundreds of people in the Marshall Islands' capital of Majuro return home following flooding.


Transcript

Hundreds of people in the Marshall Islands' capital of Majuro who sought temporary shelter after severe flooding have now returned home.

The Marshall Islands is under a state of emergency following a high tide and storm surges on Monday.

Our correspondent, Giff Johnson, told Amelia Langford a big cleanup is underway but things are slowly returning to normal in the capital.

GIFF JOHNSON: Most of the people who were in shelters in Majuro have left and gone home. I think at its peak about there were about 900 people in shelters Monday and Tuesday. That has dropped to about 200 or maybe fewer and there are relief efforts still going on but at this point its mostly assessments by government people of damage not only in Majuro but on two or three outer islands that have reported being hit by inundations so some survey teams are going to the more remote outer islands to check into it and the governments cabinet earlier in the week declared an emergency because of the flooding in Majuro which generally makes it easier to access some funding that can be used to help people recover.

AMELIA LANGFORD: Right, and so it was estimated about 70 homes were damaged. I assume if some people, or most people, are returning to their homes, that damage is not too bad?

GJ: It depends. Some places were pretty much knocked over, others had walls knocked out, damage from incoming rocks or debris. Rather huge cleanup effort just to get all the junk out of people's yards and homes that were washed up by the tide and waves. Some of the homes that are getting knocked down are not very strong structures to begin with - they are plywood so they just got knocked over, you know, walls knocked out. So there is some significant repair work that will need to go on to make some of the places habitable again.

AL: And I guess in the long-term, the Government will be looking at these homes that are built so close to the shoreline. Are things going to have to change there?

GJ: It is hard to say because there really has been no enforcement of any type of zoning in Majuro - the urban centre here, and this has led to people building in just about any place they can get land owner approval to put up a house which means people have built on some pretty precarious bits of land right up to the high water mark, almost the high water mark, where the ocean level normally is and it really puts them at pretty high risk and then you couple that with houses that are built from plywood or wood that isn't very sturdy.

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