P.M. spearheads Cyclone Gita emergency response

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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A CYCLONE AND FLOODING: Samoa has begun a massive clean up effort after Tropical Cyclone Gita slammed the country on Friday night and yesterday morning.

A CYCLONE AND FLOODING: Samoa has begun a massive clean up effort after Tropical Cyclone Gita slammed the country on Friday night and yesterday morning. (Photo: Misiona Simo)

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Cabinet held an emergency meeting yesterday morning as the Government begins to count the cost of Cyclone Gita.

The category 2 cyclone devastated the entire country on Friday night and yesterday morning, with most of the damage caused by flooding.

The most vicious flood took place in Apia where the Vaisigano River burst, destroying everything in its path including the recently renovated Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel. 

The scenes from yesterday were a reminder of Cyclone Evan in 2012 which destroyed Lelata and Fa'atoia, killing innocent people.   

The good news is that according to Prime Minister Tuilaepa, so far, no casualties have been reported to them.

But he said some 200 people have had to be evacuated to emergency shelters, which have been set up at different locations including Tuana’imato, Samoa College, N.U.S. and A.D.R.A. at Lalovaea.

The Prime Minister said Cyclone Gita was forecasted to be a category 1 but when it arrived, it was a category 2. He was relieved that it moved quickly from the Samoa group yesterday.

But he warned members of the public not to be complacent. 

 “Remember Hurricane Ofa, which lasted four days,” he said.

“On the third day the sun was shining and we thought it was finished. Yet it came back stronger and the damage on the fourth day was worse than the first three days.”

From their early inspection yesterday, the Prime Minister said most of the damage was caused by flooding. Referring to the Vaisigano river, he said this is why the Government is working quickly to erect a wall there.

Part of the delay, he said, was caused by families who have been objecting to the wall. But with the latest natural disaster, the Prime Minister said he hopes people will now see why the wall is critical.

He added that the Government anticipates future natural disasters to take the same path in terms of flooding since Scientists are predicting them as part of climate change.

UNFORGIVING GITA: The cyclone not only brought flooding, it devastated farms and caused landslides throughout the country. Misiona Simo
UNFORGIVING GITA: The cyclone not only brought flooding, it devastated farms and caused landslides throughout the country. Misiona Simo
GOING DOWN: The howling winds which brought so much rain with it kept the Peter family up all night. Photo: Misiona Simo.
GOING DOWN: The howling winds which brought so much rain with it kept the Peter family up all night. Photo: Misiona Simo.

Last night, Cabinet issued the following update on their efforts:

The National Disaster Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, met to discuss the status and effects of damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Gita - a Category 1 Cyclone currently affecting Samoa.

Reports submitted to the National Emergency Operation Centre (N.E.O.C.) have detailed that the extent of damages caused by TC Gita are from flooding and strong winds. 

As of 2pm this afternoon, the fifth Special Weather Bulletin issued by the Samoa Meteorological Services indicated that the TC category 2 warning (which was previously enforced for the Northern areas) was cancelled while the TC category 1 warning remains in force for all of Samoa.

 

Updates from Response Agencies received by the N.E.O.C. include:

• The restoration of electricity to Apia Urban areas including Toomatagi, Vaivase, Faatoia, Moataa, Vaitele, Toamua, Puipaa, Faleula, Aleisa to part of Ululoloa, Siusega and Tuanaimato.  

• The Land Transport Authority continues to provide updates to N.E.O.C. as well as updating the general public through their Facebook page. They have been working to clear roads for major arterial routes and responding to calls as they have come in through emergency lines. 

• •Updates from the Samoa Tourism Authority for Savaii indicate medium damages to beach fales with major issues being no electricity, phone communication and no water supply in some areas; For Upolu in the town area - Sheraton guests have been evacuated to Sheraton Mulifanua, Tanoa and Hotel Insel Fehmarn.

• Evacuation shelters – are located at the National University of Samoa (Vaivase), Latter Day Saints (Vaitoloa) and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (A.D.R.A.) at Lalovaea. They are fully operational, taking in 244 people that have contacted N.E.O.C. for assistance. Also assisting to shelter evacuees from TC Gita is the residence of Vaasilifiti Moelagi Jackson.  

• Food items for Evacuation shelters have been distributed - provided by the Government of Samoa.  

• There have been no reports of any casualties as a result of Tropical Cyclone Gita. 

Response Agencies have been working together with the N.E.O.C. to facilitate all calls from the public and dispatching support where help is needed.  Please call 997 or 911 for emergency assistance.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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