HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 650: 23 January 2013

The Power of One

Cyclone Evan hit three Pacific island nations over the period of five days, changing peoples’ lives forever, one cyclone that grew to category 4 leaving death and destruction behind. Is this what we have to look forward to as climate change brings with it a whole wave of impacts that we must adapt to?
My coping mechanism with the “too hard stuffs” is denial, so it’s with a whole lot of reluctance that I sift through the images and stories to write about Cyclone Evan that hit Samoa, Wallis and Futuna and Fiji.
I work with people in Samoa who had their homes destroyed, all their belongings including cars washed away and are now living with relatives and in churches, but are thankful their families are safe. Some of them have had their homes washed through and are now salvaging what they can during the clean up process which is tough given there is still no power in Samoa and the water is being rationed.
Their stories are heart wrenching and takes me back to when the tsunami struck Samoa, I think this is a country that knows tragedy. It is hard to remain objective when you see how disasters like this impact upon people’s lives.
From what I know the initial numbers in Samoa have counted five people confirmed dead with 19 more still missing and over 4,500 people displaced and without homes. Over 1,000 houses have been damaged and an additional 421 houses completely destroyed, Samoa is reported to have a population of over 180 thousand people.
I did a bit of “googling” on the internet and found that Tropical Cyclone Evan made landfall in Samoa on 13 December as a Category 2 cyclone and was stationary over Samoa for approximately 24 hours as it intensified into a Category 3 storm, it ripped through Apia bursting rivers that washed away cars and left homes flattened. From there it was upgraded to a Category 4 on 15 December just as it passed on top of Wallis which felt more of a direct impact than Futuna. There were no reported deaths although two people were injured. Approximately 250 families have been affected as their houses were damaged.
Tropical Cyclone Evan then struck Fiji from 16 to 18 December as a Category 4 storm with evacuation centres in Fiji now hosting close to 14,000 people. Such was the power of just one cyclone.
We can expect to see bigger and stronger tropical cyclones in the Pacific region while there may not be an increase in numbers it is forecast that the cyclones will be more intense possibly wreaking more havoc. This is one of the many impacts of climate change it is also one of the many reasons why the global community must work together to turn down the heat and limit global warming below 1.5 Degrees Celsius.
The Cook Islands follows Loss and Damage at the UN Climate Change Negotiations striving to have a mechanism in place to address climate change impacts such as those from extreme weather events.
Loss and Damage refers to a range of damage and permanent loss associated with certain climate change impacts, this includes those from extreme weather events and slow onset events such as sea level rise.
In Doha at the UN Climate Negotiations, after long intense discussions it was agreed that there will be an international mechanism on Loss and Damage established. The details of this mechanism is still to be hashed out over the next year, however in Doha, the Cook Islands were calling for three key features in this mechanism.
We’d like an Insurance Component that will be funded by developed countries and would provide insurance payments for climate related damage and loss of infrastructure, homes and crops that affect the GDP of the Pacific.
There is also the need for a Rehabilitation and Compensatory Component to provide financial assistance to help Pacific Island Countries deal with the unavoidable loss and damage imposed by climate change and thirdly a Risk Management Component that will help promote ideas and suggestions to reduce risk where possible.
This will help establish an international fund that helps with the immediate issues at the time of natural disasters that are to become more extreme with climate change.
As we’ve seen with Cyclone Evan we are vulnerable to natural disasters, in particular extreme weather events, the scary thought is that we are at the start of the cyclone season with several more months to come.
The global community is still also arguing about who should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by what amount and meanwhile we continue to feel the effect of climate change whether it be through saltwater inundation of food crops, droughts or extreme weather events.
La faatasi atu le atua ma faamanuia i tagata uma o Samoa. O taeao o se aso fou, tatou te galulue faatasi ai ina ia faafoisia le matagofie o si o tatou atunu’u.
Tofa ia soifua,

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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