Pacific nations must prepare for more natural disasters

Update: 1:26PM THE south-west Pacific has experienced its fair share of natural disasters in the past two years and experts warn more may be on the way.

The region has always been at the mercy of wild weather, but it is now also in the grip of an El Nino cycle.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the Pacific region had nine major emergencies between November 2013 and June 2014.

It said the 2014-15 cyclone season was also one of the most active. Tropical Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu in March this year, killing at least 11 people and leaving thousands without shelter.

The Federated States of Micronesia was battered with Cyclone Maysak a month later and Cyclone Raquel bore down on Solomon Islands in July ? an unprecedented winter system.

“We are certainly bracing ourselves for a year of challenges,” OCHA head Sune Gudnitz said.

“Solomon Islands is a reminder that we cannot be complacent.

“The Pacific is now more or less in a constant state of cyclone season, at least as long as we have El Nino going on, and we can’t really take a break.”

Mr Gudnitz said preparation was key.

“The better communities are to respond and the better prepared they are to survive those first days after a disaster strikes, the better the outcome will be.”

He said despite the devastating loss in Vanuatu, he said the government there did well to respond.

“It was a very difficult situation for them, it was a very difficult situation for the affected people and of course it was a very difficult situation for a lot of responders … stretching over long distances with difficult access,” he said.

“I think that that’s very positive and very heartening and I think things are definitely getting better. I think there’s a much better understanding of what the international system, for example, can provide.”

AT A GLANCE

Pacific natural disasters 2013-2015

  • 306,000 affected
  • 20,000 displaced
  • 48 killed
  • $77 million funding required

Source: OCHA