UNDP office was a temporary refuge during Tropical Cyclone Evan

01 Feb 2013

The UNDP office in Samoa was sought as a temporary refuge by more than 150 people living in the villages close to the UN compound during Tropical Cyclone Evan in December 2013.

As the cyclone wreaked havoc in the afternoon of 13th December 2013, families living around the vicinity of Apia were overwhelmed by the sudden flash flooding when the nearby Vaisigano river burst its banks due to the heavy rain.  The UN compound was also affected by the flooding however, the second storey building of the UNDP office was safe from harm and allowed for people to seek refuge and wait the cyclone out.

"We managed to hop out of our van in time as the water rushed in at the four corners.  We tried to park the van but we felt it floating so we just hopped out and waded towards your building.  We just hope our van is still somewhere nearby not taken by the waters", commented Vaelaa Poutoa, one of the many who sought refuge at UNDP.

UNDP and UNDSS personnel working on the day opened its gates to take in the elderly, parents, youth and young children as they waded through chest high water, trying to seek higher ground.  Most families were taken by surprise by the flooding that they only had time to grab young children or the elderly and make for higher ground.

They were all safely transported with the help of the Samoa National Disaster Management Office, UNDSS and UNDP vehicles to a nearby college set up by the DMO as a refugee camp later on in the night.

Tropical Cyclone Evan caused major damage to physical assets in all sectors of economic and social activity to the amount of 251.6 million SAT.  The losses arising from the disaster across all sectors are estimated at 228.9 million SAT.  The figures are very significant for the relatively small size of the Samoan economy.

In support of the Government of Samoa in its recovery efforts, UNDP decided to develop a cyclone and flood recovery programmes called the Samoa Cyclone Evan Early Recovery project and the Samoa Cyclone Evan Reconstruction project.  The programme would implement only those components of overall recovery needs which actively encourages household and community recovery and enhances national capacity in disaster risk management.