Palau Islanders displaced by Typhoon Haiyan set to return home soon | Pacific Beat

Palau Islanders displaced by Typhoon Haiyan set to return home soon

Palau Islanders displaced by Typhoon Haiyan set to return home soon

Updated 8 May 2014, 17:44 AEST

The small Palau island of Kayangal was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan before it hit the Philippines six months ago.

While there were no deaths there, all of the homes on the island were destroyed, forcing those who lived there to be moved out.

But Palau's Vice President Antonio Bells, who's also the head of the National Emergency Committee, says it's hoped they'll soon be able to return to their island.

Presenter: Catherine Graue

Speaker: Antonio Bells, Palau's Vice President

BELLS: We have been able to begin the rebuilding of the homes in the northern island of Kayangal, which is where as you know all the homes were completely destroyed and the … was totally devastated. And we are now rebuilding the homes and schools and also the power generators and also rebuilding the water supply and maybe in good time shortly the people will be able to start moving back.

GRAUE: So how many people have been forced out of the area and where have they been for the interim six months?

BELLS: I don't have the numbers but I would roughly say 80 people. First few months they were living in the community and now they have dispersed to live in their own family homes on the island of Koror.

GRAUE: And you talk about rebuilding homes for them, how many homes and are they being rebuilt in a way that will help them to withstand further typhoons in the future?

BELLS: Well the homes I understand were to be elevated so in anticipation that there are typhoons in the future. At least a little bit elevated so that the water doesn't wash into the homes. But I guess there's only so much you can do on a very low level island. The structures are being raised to be able to stand the strong winds.

GRAUE: And in terms of the location of the homes, because the island Kayangal is so low lying, was it at all taken into consideration to perhaps relocate them to a slightly more elevated position?

BELLS: Where the homes are the most elevated sections of the island, there's nowhere else, so they're practically in the same places.

GRAUE: And so you're obviously rebuilding homes, but what about other key infrastructure with schools or health facilities as well there, how is progress going there?

BELLS: Yeah they're coming up, we know the homes as well, we're expecting them going back in the very near future.

GRAUE: And where have the children been attending school in the time since and have they been?

BELLS: They moved to the capital of Palau, Koror, most of them are going to school in Koror.

GRAUE: And obviously this whole experience has been quite difficult I would imagine for these people. How do you think they are coping and I guess feeling as you say in the anticipation of being able to return home, but to a place that was obviously saw so much destruction?

BELLS: Well to them they want to return home, but when you have been displaced for the last six months the kids are so … different things in Koror, so we don't know, they all say that they're anxious to return home to their island.

GRAUE: So this experience hasn't really scared them off and made them reconsider the dangers that they face on their island?

BELLS: Well that's interesting, I guess they just want to go back home, that's what they say. As long as they can have their homes rebuilt.

GRAUE: So in terms of Kayangal though as you say there is no further areas that are of higher elevation, do you think in years to come the government will be forced to relocate people or have these people move out permanently?

BELLS: Well that's a concern to look into, because we know people just cannot be moved away from what they consider their homes. Maybe if we're going to have more disasters, probably we should think twice about it, we may have to do that you know.

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