Typhoon aftermath: 300 still homeless in Palau but hospital reopens | Pacific Beat

Typhoon aftermath: 300 still homeless in Palau but hospital reopens

Typhoon aftermath: 300 still homeless in Palau but hospital reopens

Updated 7 December 2012, 11:53 AEDT

In the Philippines they're still trying to tally the worst of Typhoon Bopha, several hundred people killed and extensive damage to houses and crops.

While it was still gathering its fury the typhoon brushed past Palau.

For a small island state the damages bill is high, with President Johnson Toribiong asking for an initial $10-million to kick start the relief effort.

300 people remain in tempory shelter after the typhoon destroyed or damaged hundreds of houses.

Presenter:Geraldine Coutts

Speaker:Greg Grimsich, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Suva



GRIMSICH: There was an aerial assessment that took place, there was I believe a helicopter that went out Monday and they did have a chance to look at the communities on the southern islands of Anguar and Peleliu. However, at the same time, what's more important is the kind of initial details about the assessment on the ground and that we've got some initial reports back in from that already, which arrive at the figures. Initially you're looking at 92 houses destroyed and more that werfe  not completely destroyed and about 300 people remain in the evacuation centres. But we're still waiting for reports to come in from Anguar and Peleliu as more details on the exact extent of damage in those areas.
The most affected areas is the impression were are the northeastern communities of the main island. Now they're are actually quite far from the eye of the storm, compared to the southern islands. But many of the communities were low lying and it was the storm swells that had a significant impact and destroyed schools and homes and public buildings up there.
COUTTS: And across the Palau chain, do we know if there's been any casualties or injuries?
GRIMSICH: Again, I mean fortunately, the efforts of the government for giving early warnings to the communities and opening up the 45 evacuation centres on Sunday, or the start of the week on a Saturday and Sunday, they were open and people were going into those. It had a tremendous impact on securing peoples' lives. 
And then also the fortunate last minute wobble south of tropical cyclone, Bopha just below Palau, some spared probably some of the worst impacts which unfortunately the Philippines is now recovering from as well.
COUTTS: Now a state of emergency has been declared in Palau. Do we know how long it might be in place and what impact is it having on the ground?
GRIMSICH: Well, the state of emergency will be in place for ten days, so I guess until the 13th. December and the ten million dollars has been mobilised for the initial response and recovery efforts. Some of the priorities though, we'll be looking at the temporary shelters constructed for the people that remain in the evacuation centres to get them out of those public buildings and into something temporary that could help provide some normal private life for them and also looking at provision of food relief and water supplies for those homes as well.
Now, they've engaged the private sector, they'll be contracting out to help to construct these temporary shelter as soon as possible.
COUTTS: And why are they attempting to do temporary shelters. why don't they just go back and repair or rebuild the home?
GRIMSICH: Well, that is the ultimate goal. That will take some months to actually rebuild the homes that people have lost, so the temporary shelters, they can hopefully get up in the next weeks and provide people with a home and well they can get back and actually reconstruct their own homes.
Now, the Red Cross has already started distributing, the Palau Red Cross has distributed tools and some supplies and tarps to people with damaged homes, so there's a sense of normalcy returning as we're able to repair some of the damage on homes. But again, they are the most effective public use, at least 300 that have lost their homes completely.
COUTTS: And what about infrastructure, water, power, sanitation?
GRIMSICH: Yes, we suggested earlier in the week it was slowly being restored, however, there's still parts of northeast that remain without power. Water lines have been damaged, so water is an issue, as well as sewerage. Those are priorities in the water sector to get those back up and running, especially again in the northeast states.
COUTTS: And is there potable water that is available at the moment?
GRIMSICH: Yes, there is water that's been brought up and provided to communities, but the main thing is restoring the water systems that were in place, as well as the sewerage lines that were there before.
COUTTS: And has the hospital been open all the way through this?
GRIMSICH: Well, it was closed the first couple of days actually since the hospital in Koror is low lying, they had to close it and move all the patients out into the former prime minister's residence and I think it was this time on Wednesday this week, they were able to start returning patients and opening up for regular services by just yesterday. So the hospital was say temporarily shutdown, but emergency services were being provided through and it's now up and running normally.
COUTTS: Well, Congress has been asked to appropriate ten million US dollars for response and recovery efforts. How far along are they with that?
GRIMSICH: I think, I'm not sure when that will be approved, but or if it's already approved. But I believe that (indecipherable) they're actually looking at tenders already for the private sector. I think it's going to go through very quick.
COUTTS: Alright, is there any talk about moving the hospital to higher ground so this situation doesn't happen every time there's a disaster?
GRIMSICH: No, I haven't been part of those conversations and I'm sure that that would be an issue worth looking at. This isn't the first cyclone that Palau has been faced with and there's actually been one every about 20 years, so obviously they don't have the number that say the Philippines are hit with, which often times they have half-a-dozen severe storms hit them every year. But Palau is in a cyclone track, maybe a little bit off, so the likelihood in the next 15-20 years of something like happening again, especially with climate change, increasing intensity and severity of storms it's something to really strongly consider in the future.


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