Fiji and Solomon Islands hit by two hurricanes: UNICEF ready to respond
SUVA, 15 March 2010 – Two extreme cyclones, Tomas and Ului, are striking Fiji and Solomon Islands at the same time.
Cyclone Tomas, now over Fiji, has intensified to become a Category Four Hurricane – one short of the maximum. There are initial reports of at least one death, significant infrastructure damage, widespread disruptions to power supplies, drinking water and transportation, flooding, and eight metre sea-swells in the north. The cyclone is moving south along the eastern side of Fiji. Fiji’s disaster management office, DISMAC, said an extensive emergency response was in place with more than 100 emergency shelters set up. A curfew is in effect in the Northern Division with indications that this will be extended to the whole of Fiji within the next six to 12 hours. Fiji’s Meteorological Service has forecast damaging gale force winds exceeding 200kmh and extending about 280km from the cyclone’s centre. All schools have been closed and civil servants told to stay home.
Meanwhile, Cyclone Ului has become a Category Five Hurricane moving west across the southern Solomon Islands with a number of very remote islands hit in the last 12-18 hours. Authorities have already received reports of damage in several villages in Makira/Ulawa Province while storm-surges last night resulted in some people being evacuated to safer areas. Severe flooding in low-lying coastal areas is expected today. Further damage assessments will become available in the next day or so as authorities try to re-establish communication links. Sustained winds of over 200kmh, with maximum gusts to 260kmh, are being recorded.
UNICEF Pacific Office is standing ready to assist both countries with pre-positioned emergency response supplies made possible through support from the Government of Australia. These include medical equipment, drugs, water containers, water purifying tablets, soap, tarpaulins, and tents together with written information materials promoting key hand washing, breastfeeding and sanitation and hygiene behaviours.