Tropical Cyclone Yasa makes for a ‘tough Christmas’ across the Pacific
18 Dec 20
For the people of the Pacific region, severe weather emergencies aren’t new. Despite this fact, the intensity of Cyclone Yasa, which made landfall at 6pm Thursday December 17 on the second of Fiji’s main islands, Vanua Levu, while also crossing a number of smaller islands, has shocked villagers and upended entire communities.
"The Government is pleading with you to please move upland. We're expecting storm surges," Vasiti Soko, director of Fiji's disaster office, said.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said 95 per cent of the country's population — over 850,000 people — were in the storm’s path.
For James Bhagwan, General Secretary for the Pacific Conference of Churches, the knowledge of local communities is key to recovery, as is a holistic response to the threat of climate change.
“Our traditional knowledge and wisdom and experiences of the past keep us resilient. We have been expecting this weather since the early and abundant breadfruit season and prolonged mango season,” James said.
“It will be a tough Christmas. We really need to shift gear on climate change as these are all climate change induced extreme weather events. When we talk about loss and damage in climate negotiations - this is part of it.”
The cyclone comes days after Category One Cyclone Zazu hit Tonga on December 14. At the same time, a tropical low has brought heavy rains to Samoa.
The impact of this climate emergency in the Pacific also comes in the wake of mutiple typhoons in Asia, including Super Typhoon Goni, which affected over 402,000 people across the Philippines, and forced families into evacuation centres where there is greater risk of spreading COVID-19. Vietnam and Cambodia have also experienced unprecedented rainfall and severe flooding since early October.
In Fiji today, and as part of Caritas Australia’s humanitarian partnerships, the emergency response includes the distribution of malaria/mosquito spraying, the clean-up of communities as well as the ongoing distribution of toolkits to support crop recovery – with many families losing their crops completely due to the cyclone.
With its partners on the ground, Caritas Australia is also working in Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu to distribute COVID-19 hygiene kits, tarps and other supplies. WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) awareness raising remain central to Caritas Australia’s work with its partners across the region, with water-borne disease a risk in the aftermath of weather disasters.
Your support of Caritas Australia’s Pacific Emergency Appeal can provide essential support and resources to communities recovering from a catastrophic cyclone.