Solomons PM Briefs Parliament On Disaster Situation

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Relief for those impacted available, damaged infrastructure being assessed

By Ednal Palmer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, April 8, 2014) – Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo on Monday explained to Members of Parliament during the brief parliament sitting that the Government has mapped out immediate plans to address the disaster situation which are being executed.

Responding to questions without notice, Mr Lilo said they have met with Australia and New Zealand who have obtained assessment reports through the National Disaster Council (NDC) and have responded "quite immediately through the various relief assistances they have already announced."

"As of last night (Sunday night), military aircrafts from both Australia and New Zealand have arrived in the country to deliver relief assistances and also provided certain personnel to help with further logistics and needs assessments that we need to undertake.

"In our discussions with these donors, we highlighted three things that are important right now or are our priorities.

"First is relief assistance and the second thing is to help out with short term assessment of the kind of maintenance required for the infrastructures within Honiara.

"As you would understand, one of the major infrastructures in Honiara is the Mataniko Bridge, which almost collapsed or just about to collapse and needs to be restored."

He said the efforts made are to get the ministry of infrastructure to work on stabilizing the bridge.

"If this bridge collapses, policing in town would be in real danger and the normal flow of social and economic services would be really affected.

"That is where the priority focus is concentrated for now and the minister of infrastructure and others are working very hard making sure the bridge is stabilized."

Mr Lilo also told Parliament that cabinet has instructed the National Disaster Council that normal economic activities must continue.

"You would also know that all appropriate institutions for us to trade both internationally and within the country are basically out of Honiara.

"We have therefore been very careful on how we put out instructions, including asking donors to focus on immediate needs assessments.

He added that the military plane that arrived on Sunday night brought in military and civil engineers to help assess the situation of the bridge, including other short term measures that can be taken to erect a bridge to ease the traffic situation in Honiara.

The Prime Minister added that the other infrastructure that is of priority is the reopening of the airport.

"As you would know, on Monday domestic services throughout the country have resumed as well as international flights have also resumed yesterday (Sunday) afternoon.

"The military has also brought in puppy lights, which are specialized navigational lights making it possible for planes to land at night and I think they are working on it right now."

Mr Lilo said the major concentration authorities are looking at now is to try and restore bridges at both the eastern and western sides of the city.

"Bridges and culverts have been washed away in Honiara as well as in the Guadalcanal Plains.

"I am sure all of you may have heard that access to our only gold mine has been destroyed.

"The bridge there is standing alone like an island because the river has changed its course. "What we have done last night is deploy members of the Police Response Team (PRT) to go and maintain security up there because that asset belongs to the state.

"It is a state asset, a state economic infrastructure and therefore we have taken measures to secure the mine site.

"We have been notified today (Monday) about the situation where the investor tried to activate the force majeure closest to the lease.

"We are currently talking to them that in spite of the disaster, we are not going to allow this investment left unattended to but we are going to put all measures to secure it, and it is our determination to have operations recommence at the mine site."

The Prime Minister said as soon as all the reports are made this week, he will be calling for a donors meeting.

"But our immediate priority is to restore infrastructures in the city - the roads and bridges.

"We will also have to now seriously start plan about the situation of our hospital.

"Relocation of the hospital has to be top priority now as well as looking at upgrading the airport runway and the terminal."

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