Kiribati Southern Islands Report ‘Severe’ Cyclone Damage

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Destructive waves damage seawalls, coastal homes

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, March 17, 2015) – The Kiribati government says it is receiving reports of severe damage on three of the nation's southern islands following high winds and sea surges due to Cyclone Pam.

A government spokesman, Rimon Rimon, says a full assessment of the damage is underway but yet to be completed.

He says the main link on Kiribati's most populous atoll Tarawa has been hit by destructive seas over the past week but is now operating under police control in a limited capacity after repairs.

He says seawalls and homes have been damaged.

"We have reports coming in from three of the southern islands, some have had to move from one side, they've been residing on one side of the island and due to the wind and the waves, they had to, all the village had to relocate to the other end. So it's affecting their lives, their livelihoods. I think it's going to take quite a long time for them to get back to normal."

[PIR editor’s note: RNZI also reported that ‘Tuvalu can expect Red Cross relief supplies on Tuesday to deal with damage after the storm surge caused by Cyclone Pam. ... The Prime Minister of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga says most people living in the outer islands have been affected and at least one island was entirely flooded. ... He says they are worried about hygiene and the lack of essentials like food, medicine and water.’]

Rimon Rimon says Kiribati is bracing for another spring tide which is due to hit this week.

But a manager for a local import company says more work should have been done to maintain the vital causeway.

The causeway links Betio and Bairiki, with much of the country’s imports and fuel supplies transported from Betio, via the causeway.

The operations manager for import and distribution company Moel Trading, Willie Maen, says every few metres of the causeway is damaged and more should have been done sooner.

"Rather than wait until this time when everything is really bad, the causeway is really devastated. We are reacting to an emergency situation, the maintenance should have been done years ago."

The Kiribati government says work will continue throughout the weekend to try and ensure all damages are repaired as soon as possible.

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