Cyclone Evan: Two Months Later


12 February 2013 | General Interest

Cyclone Evan: Two Months Later


The ongoing effects of the devastating Category 4 cyclone that hit Samoa before Christmas last year continue to have a lasting impact upon ordinary Samoans.

While the routine of daily life has been restored, it is difficult to say that life has returned to normal. People remain traumatised. The Meteorological Office, having been heavily criticised for failing to provide adequate warning about Cyclone Evan, have been issuing regular flood alerts and cyclone watch warnings. People are very nervous about another cyclone and the repeated cyclone warnings issued by the Meteorological Office still set nerves on edge.

It took nearly a month for power to be fully restored. Water supplies are also been re-established. Nevertheless, the clean-up continues and in the worst hit areas there is still a massive amount of work to do. Perhaps the saddest and most heartbreaking reality is that there are still people, who being unable to return to their homes, are still living in temporary accommodation centres.

Schools have recommenced but many still require repairs. In addition, there are reports that first year enrolments at secondary schools and at the university are down from what would usually be expected. Businesses, which suffered extensive physical damage and/or significant financial losses, have reopened and are doing their best to trade their way out of trouble. With so much repair work being done the price of building supplies has consequently skyrocketed. Farmers have been particularly hard hit. The destruction of their crops has resulted in an immediate halt to their cash flow. Yet they still have to buy seeds and materials to replant. In the meantime they have no income even for food.

Generally there are adequate food supplies but the cost of the available food continues to have a serious impact upon families. Families are being forced to buy food whereas they would normally source a significant proportion of their food from their own plantations. For instance, the entire breadfruit crop was lost and most families rely on breadfruit from their own back yards or plantations as a staple food at this time of year. Most Samoan families grow their own bananas, which are picked while still green and, after being peeled and boiled, are eaten as a staple food year round. It will be some time yet before the bananas trees begin to yield a new crop, thus another freely available staple food is not available yet. People are more reliant on rice and there have been some temporary shortages of rice but supplies are usually restored within a day or two. Vegetables have been virtually non-existent in the market and supermarkets, apart from some exorbitantly expensive imports from New Zealand. In the last week or so a limited supply of carrots, beans, spinach and “Chinese cabbage” (more like bok choy than cabbage) have begun to reappear.

The impact of Cyclone Evan has been amplified by the unusually heavy January rains. While it is the wet season and heavy rain is to be expected, the locals are saying that it is many years since they have had such torrential rains over such a sustained period. The consequence has been serious flooding in many areas, including downtown Apia. Many businesses have been flooded and there are piles of sandbags on standby in front of many shops and businesses. The deforestation caused by the massive winds of Cyclone Evan has exacerbated the flooding. The already fragile road infrastructure is literally crumbling. Many roads are so full of pot holes that it driving has become like negotiating an obstacle course. The extent of the damage has overwhelmed the authorities. Potholes are filled with gravel, which is washed away by the rains before there is even a chance to apply an asphalt sealant.

Nevertheless, the Samoan people are dealing with the situation with their usual combination of patience and cheerfulness.