People In Vanuatu Evacuation Centers Return Home As Cyclone Donna Passes

Slow moving storm brought heavy rains, flooding, rough seas to Vanuatu, New Caledonia

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, May 10, 2017) – People that sought shelter in evacuation centres around the country including on Efate and in and around Port Vila are starting to return home as super Tropical Cyclone (TC) Donna started leaving the islands of Vanuatu Tuesday after over a week in the country.

The system which started last week as a tropical low north of the Torres Group soon developed into a tropical cyclone Category one, then category two and after that Category three and lingered around the northern provinces of Torba, Sanma and Penama.

At the weekend, it developed to Category four as it moved down the western side of Malekula and on Monday afternoon it surprised everyone when it reached Category five as it moved down west of Shefa Province including Epi and Efate.

Everyone held their breath hoping and praying TC Donna would not change course and turn Southeast that would put the islands in Shefa province in a collision with the system, bringing back memories of Category five TC Pam just over two years ago.

[PIR editor's note: On May 10, 2017 RNZI reported that 'Civil defence authorities in New Caledonia have lifted all alerts for the territory as Cyclone Donna moves south. ... The storm is now a category 1 and weakening as it moves southeast over cooler waters. ... The cyclone has moved on a more easterly path than predicted and spared the islands of Ouvea and Lifou a direct hit with the storm's centre. ... But gales and high seas are still likely to affect the southern Loyalty Islands today.']

TC Donna brought heavy rain, causing flooding of rivers and low-lying areas, rough to very rough seas that lashed the shores of the islands of the country, stopped all shipping services, most domestic air services, and affected telecommunication services.

Emergency services were put on standby, evacuation centres were set up in Port Vila and around Efate to shelter people in disaster zones from flooding and possible strong winds.

One of the disaster zones near Port Vila is the end of the Bauerfield Airport where 30 people mainly women and children from its 100-plus people sought shelter at safe houses in Bladiniere and at Ohlen Nabanga.

Chief Noel Arsen said the evacuation of the vulnerable took place during Saturday and into the night using torchlight.

He said that the community of End of the Airport live on a piece of land located between the river that runs down to Prima and a small stream.

They say this is getting bigger with every big rainfall and every time there is flooding of the area, it causes massive landslides that are eroding the land area on which they live and causing loss of houses and garden crops.

“Every time there is a cyclone the people leave and take shelter in evacuation centres, and when they return they find that they have lost houses and gardens, but this time no houses were lost but only gardens and food crops,” Chief Arsen said.

He added that for the next few months the people will depend on imported food as they have lost all garden crops to flooding. Most if not all the people in the community are not employed for a pay but depend on their garden crops for economic benefits.

The community is made up of people from Tanna, Paama, Malekula and Ambrym and many other islands of the country.

And the leaders are considering asking government to look at helping them relocate to another safe site as the area they are on is currently designated a disaster zone by the National Disaster Management Office.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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We need to prepare in advance and have in mind how to take responsibilities in termsome of accepting or overcoming obstacles, unexpected events and especially natural hazard disadvantages. #Ni-Van

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