The Future is Equal

Sizing up the damage in Samoa

Cyclone Evan lashed into Samoa last week, leaving behind damage to crops, water supplies and property.

Andy Thomson, Oxfam’s Water and Sanitation Advisor, has been in Samoa throughout Cyclone Evan. He is currently surveying the damage and assessing people’s most urgent needs. He reports back on the nature and scale of the problems Samoa now faces.

Andy Thomas (right) with Samoan Water Authority“Water and sanitation is a big issue. The Samoan Water Authority has their hands full. Pipes and water treatment plants are down. Some secondary plants are operating and some water is being trucked around but there’s very little rainwater being caught by tanks. People have relied on reticulated schemes [potable water delivered by pipes] and unfortunately there’s line breaks everywhere so that is a major problem. In the evacuation centres there’s the question of whether there’s enough water and sanitation facilities for the number of people that are staying there.

“Damage across Samoa is in patches: Apia’s had severe damage; the South West of Upolu has also suffered severely. There is little infrastructure damage in Savaii, it’s more affected the plantations and forests. In Upolu the river systems have just got out of control. There’s major damage, a number of houses completely destroyed, 4-500. There are people suffering here at the moment.

“Aside from water, another issue is livelihoods. Crops and plantations have been severely affected. Extensive damage and a replanting scheme will be necessary as soon as possible. In around a month’s time we’ll see some problems with food supply and people eating a lot more rice. There’s a lot of food that’s on the ground at the moment. Taro and crops are rotting in the ground. I think currently there’s sufficient food but as time goes on there are going to be gaps that will need filled by other means.”