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Emergency aid to assist islands inundated by storms

By Aenet Rowa

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe Online, January 13, 2009) – Australia will provide US$50,000 in immediate emergency assistance to each of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), in response to tidal surges and storms that have inundated the low-lying Pacific Islands since early December.

"This US$100,000 assistance package will help alleviate the impact of recent severe flooding on inhabitants of these vulnerable islands", said Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Duncan Kerr SC today.

The flooding in the Marshall Islands occurred from December 9 to December 15, and a state of emergency was declared on 23 December 2008. The neighbouring Federated States of Micronesia declared a state of emergency on 24 December 2008.

"A combination of 3-metre waves and heavy storms flooded the cities of Majuro and Ebeye in the Marshall Islands, destroying homes and submerging parts of the islands. The tidal surges left streets covered in rocks, coral and debris", said Mr Kerr.

"There is limited information on the amount of damage in Micronesia, however we know that groundwater supply and farming land has been contaminated with seawater due to the tidal surges."

"Australia will consider further assistance should more detailed assessments indicate the need and requests come from the Governments of the two affected countries", said Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan.

Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boats are being used to transport supplies and assessment teams to the outer islands in the Federated States of Micronesia.

The announcement comes ahead of a planned visit by Mr Kerr to the Northern Pacific region, to attend the inauguration of the new President, Mr Johnson Toribiong, in neighbouring Palau.

Australia’s development assistance to the Federated States of Micronesia is estimated at $1.52 million for 2008-09 and approximately $750,000 for the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

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