16 Mar 2015

Weather hampers assessment of Solomons cyclone damage

From , 7:02 am on 16 March 2015

The Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office says strong wind warnings are preventing it from reaching the eastern province to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Pam.

On Thursday the storm passed through the country, flattening trees and crops, and forcing residents to shelter in school buildings and caves as the cyclone threatened their homes.

The NDMO principal operations officer Hotoravu Elenge says Anuta and Tikopia were the worst affected.

HOTORAVU ELENGE:  In the eastern parts of the Solomon Islands most of the damage was on fruit trees and food security.  Basically these people were relying most on fruit trees for their daily food.  Damage to houses were not so much eminent at this point.

MARY BAINES:  How many people do you think have been displaced or lost their houses?

HE:  Basically from the eastern part of Solomon Islands, mostly on Temotu area which is Tikopia and Anuta not so much have been displaced.  It is because most people have feared this high swells and storm surge therefore they move out from there, their houses close to the coast and then they moved to higher ground however people have started to move back into their dwelling houses at this point.

MB:  So much damage to houses at all then?

HE:  Sure. That's correct.  They have prepared themselves before the cyclone.  They have sort of like caves that they moved into for a short period of time.  At this point they have started to come back from their hideouts and going back to their normal houses.

MB:  Is there a lot of work going into the relief effort now?

HE:  According to really, really rough situational overview that has been conducted there should not be much clean up as we have analysed.  The main issue I would say would be on food security.  It might be in the coming two or three weeks time people would start to be affected by the limited capacity of food stock that they have on the islands.

MB:  Are emergency supplies being delivered to the people or is this not necessary at this stage?

HE:  The National Disaster Operations Committee is planning to have a meeting.  They will deliberate on what are the needs and for example the availability of food supplies.

MB:  What is the National Disaster Management Office doing now to deal with the effects of Cyclone Pam?  What's the next step?

HE:  Basically as of now there is a strong wind warning still in force for the eastern parts of the Solomons so we will still rely on the hazard advisers to advise us when it's safe to get out and hopefully we will plan to get a boat out to Anuta, especially Anuta and Tikopia and also to Malaita to do some on the ground assessment and get those sort of stuff on to them as soon as possible.

MB:  Does that mean you are not completely aware of all the damage?

HE:  We did a situational overview.  It's an aerial assessment conducted.  We have an assessment tool that we have.  We can still communicate with those outer islands through mobile phone and ask them certain types of questions.  Those give us very clear indications what sort of sectors are mostly affected.