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ACOM Report on Honiara Disaster

08/04/14 This report was received from George Kiriau, former ACOM General Secretary, who sadly lost a cousin in the floods.

Latest figures are 23 people died in Honiara when the capital of Solomon Islands was lashed by unprecedented heavy rains and strong winds during the latter part of last week. According to latest figures provided by the disaster council also about 9,000 people were left homeless and were evacuated to evacuation centres. Some stayed with relatives. Many of the people have nowhere to return to with their homes washed away or covered under debris. 

Business and services in the capital being the only commercial and business centre of the country was also affected with infrastructures/utilities of the city damaged or destroyed.  One of the main bridges linking the east to the west end of the capital was washed away in the flash floods. Several ships were washed ashore along the capital’s shorelines during the storm.

The SI government authorities are struggling to restore or rebuild the infrastructures so that business and services can return to normalcy. Concern was expressed regarding water and sanitation at the evacuation centres. Aid agencies together with the relevant government authorities are working to deal with the relief situation and to try to sort out the infrastructures including water other than roads and bridges.

As to ACOM communities affected, the worst hit was the Koa valley community which was located along the Mataniko River. The community was a squatter community and in a flood prone area which the community with the help of relatives in their home island had established St John the Baptist church. One estimate has it about less than 1000 people lived at Koa valley. While other surrounding buildings were washed away, the church building remained basically intact though water had covered it right to the roof during the flooding. Many of those who died came from this community though other areas were affected.

The church also has parishioners at Vara creek and Tuvaruhu, two residential areas along the Mataniko River. Some of the houses in the area were affected with some having houses washed away with lives lost as well. Other houses experienced flooding and should be habitable following cleaning. The Tuvaruhu parish rector’s residence was washed away with their personal belongings. The rector estimated at least 10 residential buildings were lost in the flood. Some of the houses were filled by debris. He was asked to do a survey but he said he was not able to do so because of cold affecting his knees.

Some other parts of the Honiara were flooded; however, it will be a matter of cleaning up before they could become habitable again. We do have a community at white river and their community was flooded when the river burst their banks. Considering these other parts we have little information. The parishes have been asked to do a survey.

As stated aid agencies have swung to action on the relief front, together with reconstruction of infrastructures being initiated by government authorities. New Zealand and Australian governments have announced aid assistance for relief and recovery. Also, New Zealand military is currently in country to assist. Further infrastructure assistance is likely from aid agencies. A meeting of donors was planned by the government authorities.

As for the church, it was envisaged the church disaster committee to meet and possibly the church may allocate some financial assistance from its budget. A survey is being embarked on by the diocese of central Melanesia. Parishioners in Honiara have been asked to assist those affected in one way or another by way of clothing, utensils etc. As regarding recovery, trauma counselling may be required for those affected and who witnessed terrible tragedies during the storm.

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