By Barbara Ratusznik, Public Diplomacy and Disaster Response Officer, Pacific Division, AusAID
The Pacific region is prone to a wide range of natural disasters. We saw this last week when a magnitude 8 earthquake and tsunami struck the remote Temotu Province in Solomon Islands. Cyclone Evan devastated communities across Fiji and Samoa in December, and Cyclone Bopha caused widespread destruction in Palau several weeks earlier. These disasters have claimed lives, destroyed homes and crops, and left millions of dollars’ worth of damage in their wake.
On top of the threat of cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis, the Pacific is also susceptible to volcanoes, flooding and droughts. The United Nations ranks Vanuatu as the most at-risk country in the world to natural disasters. A further four Pacific nations appear in the list’s top 15 (Tonga, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Fiji).
By Rob Tranter, First Assistant Director General, Pacific Division, AusAID
Two and a half years ago in September 2009, the Tavana family from Saleaumua village in Samoa saw their entire life swept away by one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the small Pacific nation.
With the Tavana family out the front of the Caritas-built house. Photo: AusAID
I remember being at the Crisis Centre in Canberra as news of an earthquake that had just struck off the coast of Samoa came flooding in. The 8.3 magnitude quake triggered a huge tsunami that ripped through the southern Samoan island of Upolu.
Saleaumua, on the south coast of Upolu, was one of the worst hit villages. It was completely flattened by the disaster. And while the Tavanas saved all members of their family, they lost their home and all of their possessions while fleeing from the advancing waves.