Super Typhoon Maysak

Super Typhoon Maysak has slammed into the outlying islands of Federated States of Micronesia, packing sustained winds of 250 kilometres per hour.

Guam’s national weather service said the category five storm hit the atolls of Fais and Ulithi in Yap state last night, bringing heavy rain and hazardous storm surges to coastal areas.

It said the typhoon was now moving in a north-westerly direction away from Ulithi, but typhoon-force winds would likely remain until mid-morning on Wednesday.

There have been no reports of deaths in Yap state.

Super Typhoon Maysak is the third category five storm observed in the Western Pacific this year, according to meteorologist Jeff Masters of Weather Underground.

The islands in neighbouring Chuuk state – home to nearly 50,000 people – received a direct hit from the storm late on Sunday.

Five people were killed in Chuuk state, the Pacific News Centre in Guam said, quoting FSM public information officer Marz Akapito.

Robert Ruecho, the consul-general for FSM based in Guam, said he was aware of the reports of casualties but could not confirm the numbers.

Mr Ruecho told the Marianas Variety newspaper in Guam he had not been able to make contact with people because phone lines and power were down in Chuuk.

Maysak is forecast weaken significantly as it moves slowly towards the Philippines later this week.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre is predicting that Maysak will weaken to a Category 1 typhoon when it hits Luzon Island in the Philippines on Easter Sunday.

The Philippines is still recovering from Super Typhoon Haiyan, which struck in November 2013, leaving more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

Source: ABC/AFP

Image Credit: NASA

[ABC News 24]The crippling affect of Cyclone Pam on Vanuatu’s economy

Transcript below

And returning to cyclone Pam which has not only devastated Vanuatu in the short term, it’s damaged key industries in the nation that could cripple the country for a generation, as Iskandar Razak explains.

While the United Nations has listed Vanuatu as one of the most underdeveloped nations in the world, it has been a financial bright spot in the Pacific. Vanuatu’s economy experienced steady year-on-year growth for a decade.

According to the World Bank, in 2005, Vanuatu’s GDP in US Dollars was just under $400 million. By 2013, it had grown to more than $800 million US Dollars. And the Asian Development Bank was even forecasting 4% growth in 2015. That data coincided with a lot of other positives for the nation. Life expectancy was rising as well as primary school enrolments and access to central services. But now it’s hard to see how those trends can continue.

A big factor behind Vanuatu’s economic growth has been tourism. Every year, more and more tourists visit Vanuatu. Recently more than 350000 people visited the nation by plane or cruise ship. Tourism and tourism related sectors like retail trade, hotels and transport accounts for anything between 20% to 40% of the nation’s GDP, depending on the report.

But much of the vital infrastructure needed for the sector is now in ruins. It’s estimated 90% of buildings have been destroyed or damaged in Port Vila alone – and that figure could be much worse in the remote regions. That means the sector will suffer in the short to medium term.

As Vanuatu’s President has said, all that the nation has built and developed over the past few years has been wiped out. But it is in agriculture where the real long-term pain will be. Agriculture is the historic backbone of the nation’s economy. Key exports include copra, coconut, coffee, kava and cocoa – as well as beef and fish. And while it accounts for just 20% of Vanuatu’s GDP, it is Vanuatu’s primary industry in more ways than one.

About 80% of the population is involved in agriculture at some level. That’s because most of the people in Vanuatu are subsistence farmers who grow cash crops on the side. It’s estimated Cyclone Pam has destroyed two-thirds of all crops and killed most of the livestock.

But it is perhaps the fisheries sector that could take the longest time to recover. Much of the nation’s fishing fleet has been destroyed and fish stocks and coral reefs damaged. And while trees and crops have the potential to bounce back in years, or even months in some cases, some say the damage to fish stocks and habitats could take a decade to recover.

Source: ABC News 24

The price of Island Cabbage

The local economy at present is on shaky grounds. Although structural repairs have been made to key infrastructure, it will take some time for the economy to spring back to where it left off on Friday, March 12 2015.

The severely affected areas will have a long road to travel in order to get back to past economic statuses. Aid pouring in is a supplement for much needed basic needs, but that will not last. Eventually, the government will put an end to aid from overseas.

Here are a few observations from the economic hard times being experienced in Port Vila.

Greens from Santo are being sold at exorbitant prices with some cabbages selling at 350VT per bundle. A bundle of island

Naus, a tropical fruit eaten in Vanuatu, was in full season when Pam hit. There is none left in the affected areas.

Naus, a tropical fruit eaten in Vanuatu, was in full season when Pam hit. There is none left in the affected areas.

cabbage that would be sold at less than 50VT in Santo markets is selling at 200VT per bundle in Port Vila. People in the capital rush to buy the cabbages nevertheless.

Ball cabbages imported from overseas are selling for at least 2000VT per piece at Au Bon Marché. The price of bottled water has risen from 110VT to 130VT per bottle in some shops. The government has disqualified Duty and VAT on all imports after March 14, 2015 so there would not be an incentive for businesses to put a hike on prices.

The local food markets and stalls are closed in Port Vila and Tanna due to lack of surplus goods to be sold in markets as well as damaged market houses. Some arts and crafts shops have closed because of the damage done to sales premises.

Kava bars are operating and making a profit, much to the chagrin and displeasure of a lot of citizens. The ire of some arises from the concern that the little money earned should be saved to get families through this disaster and not wasted away on kava. Social media commentators have pointed to kava consumption being an unnecessary avenue for spending.

Food security concerns are being raised by experts and proposals are being drawn to address specific issues for both the short and long term.

While fuel prices have dropped, bus fare remains the same with adults paying 150VT, high school students paying 100VT and younger children paying 50VT. A drop in fare prices may have to go through legislation put forth by the land transport association.

Stunningly beautiful sunsets - Pam did not take these away. She made them more beautiful.

Stunningly beautiful sunsets – Pam did not take these away. She made them more beautiful.

Corrugated iron roofings (kapa) are rumored to be sold out and producers have to take orders from clients. The waiting lists are rumored to be long.

While tourism activities will be dramatically reduced for the affected areas, tourists are urged to visit Santo up north. It is as green as ever and they need the employment. However, the affected areas need the tourist money more than anywhere else. These areas may not offer much by way of food and accommodation, but the tourist will be stunned by the picturesque landscapes and the romantic sunsets.

The Vanuatu Community Spirit

There have been a lot of stories of resilience and community spirit over the past weeks, highlighting the ni-Vanuatu’s

Wan Smolbag Theatre staff working as volunteers, serving breakfast to displaced families at their Nutrition Center Kitchen.

Wan Smolbag Theatre staff working as volunteers, serving breakfast to displaced families at their Nutrition Center Kitchen.

strength as a community. Erromango Islanders living in Port Vila are sending parcels of goods to their families who are stranded on Erromango.

There was a story related of how a pregnant mother on Tanna Island was in labor during the cyclone and the members of her community hung onto her house both inside and outside so it wouldn’t get blown off, just so she could give birth in a safe environment.

Then there are stories of workplaces taking in their staff and their families and other members of the community at large because these people had nowhere else to go. Similarly churches and other community centers became evacuation centers as displaced families looked for a place of refuge.

In the aftermath of severe tropical cyclone Pam, pictures on social media show a nation rebuilding itself. The Government of Vanuatu is trying its best to coordinate aid pouring in from overseas so that everyone can get a fair share. The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has been trying to the best of its ability to see goods delivered to people in the remote and far-flung corners of the country in a timely manner. This job is long and tedious, and is fraught with administrative bottlenecks.

Just a few blocks away from the NDMO headquarters, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is hard at work parceling goods to distribute to families in need. They have been donating parcels of foods containing rice, breakfast crackers, some tinned fish, sugar, milk and milo directly to families. They work under the direction and supervision of NDMO.

Similarly to ADRA, the Red Cross, Save the Children and many other NGO bodies are working with NDMO to get goods to people in communities where they have a presence. All of these NGOs use the services of volunteers who are themselves victims of Cyclone Pam’s fury.

Business houses and the private sector have teamed up and formed a more directly involved approach to aid – dubbed as renegade aid. Renegade aid came about because the private sector has become frustrated by the diplomatic and administrative bottlenecks they have to navigate to get urgent supplies to the people via NDMO.

Family members living overseas are organizing aid to be brought to Vanuatu to complement the international aid that is already here or is still coming.

That’s the Vanuatu Community spirit at play. Many friends of Vanuatu people are genuinely concerned about families in Vanuatu and want to help in one way or another to get people back up on their feet. The Vanuatu Community Spirit has rubbed off on them.

This country has been blessed by a friendly spirit that is hardly experienced elsewhere. It is felt and produced from the most local of grassroots to the highest government officials and diplomats. It is instilled in the people of this nation from birth and anyone who comes in contact with ni-Vanuatus is automatically infected.

Some observers have called the Vanuatu people a laid-back bunch with not enough care about time and its passage. It is that same laid-back attitude that has helped this nation to mobilize as a community to restore the brokenness that is evident nationwide. It has brought people together and not drawn them apart.

This laid-back way of life is indeed the Vanuatu Community Spirit, and it is due to this lifestyle that people are not fretting or causing any riots. The people may be feeling pangs of panic over lack of basic needs, but it has not caused them to rally together and wreck havoc when promised aid does not arrive in time. Instead, the people have come together for support and recovery.

At the end of the day, when promised aid arrives where it was promised, it is a sure bet that the community will share everything to individual families, and then the families will continue sharing amongst the community. It might seem unconventional to those not raised in such environments, but in disaster, this spirit is alive and well and keeps us strong and resilient.

Renegade Aid – The Private Sector Driven Aid In post TC Pam