Samoans urged to move away from coast and riverbanks | Pacific Beat

Samoans urged to move away from coast and riverbanks

Samoans urged to move away from coast and riverbanks

Updated 11 January 2013, 17:05 AEST

Samoans are going to be urged to move their homes away from the coastline and riverbanks as a result of Cyclone Evan.

That's according to the country's prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele.

He says the impact of the storm was severe, and lessons learned now have to be acted on, or Samoa will continue to suffer weather damage in future.

The prime minister says the initial phase of the disaster is over, but the long term cleanup will take a while.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Samoa's prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele.

SAILELE: We have rounded up our relief emergency assistance. At this stage, people that have been living in some of the communal buildings while their residences and surrounding environment have been cleared up of debris that has now been completed and people are going back to rebuild. There has been a lot of work done. The electricity is just about to be fully restored, only several places yet to be fixed up. The same with communications. We have been asking people to help themselves rebuild their homes and we are also putting together the final report for the Committee to recommend to government the kind of further actions to be attended to by government.

HILL: Do you think that Cyclone Evan could have a long term economic impact on Samoa's economy, agriculture, growth prospects?

SAILELE: Well fortunately, only parts of the main island of Bolu had been severely hit and the rest of like Savai'i was hardly touched. In terms of agriculture produce, the areas that have now ?? been protected will be able to provide for the rest of the country in terms of food supply.

HILL: How well do you think that Samoans responded to this cyclone. Are there any lessons learnt from this about cyclones in the future or was it just one of those things that happen periodically. Samoa gets hit by a cyclone?

SAILELE: No, the severity of this cyclone, we have noted, for instance, a lot of trees have been snapped halfway, quarter of the way through. It was a very strange cyclone in that sense. In areas that were badly hit, you will see only trunks 30 metres up and they're absolutely, the top part is gone for many trees that have been affected.

Of course, other trees have been destroyed for the areas that have been hit as well as coconut trees. Even right now, in the worst hit areas, you can easily see the coconuts have been dead, so those are the particular areas that would need to be addressed in terms of replanting. Fortunately, there are agriculture root crops, like sweet potatoes and manioc ?? that can be planted and be harvested between three to six months.

HILL: I suppose there's really not much that can be done to prepare for a cyclone like this, I mean maybe build some seawalls, but really if the winds going to blow that hard, it's going to really damage a country like Samoa, isn't it?

SAILELE: Yes, this is what the small island developing states have been arguing for in international meetings, the regulatory and also the civility has increased.

This latest cyclone I think within two hours it did it's damage, within two hours of from four to 6 o'clock in the evening and that was that.

Fortunately, if it had happened while there is still daylight, the casualty would have been in terms of people killed would have been much higher if it had blown in the dusk. This was the comforting thought for the cyclone. But the valuable lesson following this cyclone is that we need to warn people that are living close to rivers that they ought to shift, as well as those who live very close to the coastal areas, that they need to shift.

Secondly, the electricity people would have to look very carefully at the taking keeper for the electricity poles to ensure that these electricity poles could withstand the strength of any wind in the future.

Thirdly, we need to place more emphasis on the kind of root crops, like yams, that we ought to promote more people to growth, because with yams they can stay in the ground much longer and can provide food anytime that a storm hit us.

There are quite a lot of lessons learnt. We should also be constantly cutting trees that are very close to the homes and close to the electricity power lines.

And lastly, that we need to coordinate better our activities with the Red Cross and other charity organisations, so that we can rationalise activities and avoiding duplication of assets with the result that some people they ended up getting more reliefs than others. As well, avoiding those who take the opportunities also to claim reliefs when they don't really deserve the relief.

HILL: Has that been happening?

SAILELE: It has happened and we are trying very hard to clamp down on that.

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