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Pacific Islands

Cyclone Ivy

Cyclone Ivy

Postby pmforster » Fri 27 Feb 2004 01:59 GMT

In case anyone is interested in what it is like to have a cyclone (what hurricanes are called in this part of the world) go over, here's a bit of a taster:

It's now about two days after we heard that Cyclone Ivy was coming to Vila and the town is a mess. It started building up on Wednesday. The winds intensified and the rain got heavier as the afternoon turned to evening. Marijke had already put the cyclone screens over our windows when I reached home. A couple of friends were helping our Dutch neighbour, put her screens up. It was her birthday and she invited us over for drinks and kaekae (food). It turned into a very pleasant evening as other friends dropped by with news of the cyclone and stayed to chat.

When we finally got home the wind was howling. It sounded like a jet engine and made sleep difficult. In the morning I put on swimming things and went outside to check everything. Trees had blown over in the night and there were branches and coconuts everywhere, but our house was intact. The winds peaked at 85 knots with gusts up to 110 knots (according to the Vanuatu Meteorological Office) mid-morning. Our electricity went off early in the morning, but we still had water, although the sinks and the toilet didn't drain well.

Then, just after mid-day, the eye of the storm passed over Vila. The wind dropped to almost nothing, the sky lightened and there was even a glimpse of sun at one point. This lasted for about 40 minutes and suddenly birds came out to feed. Then the skies darkened and the winds started to howl again. We heard a Radio Vanuatu report in metric units that said winds in the afternoon and evening were moving at about 200 kilometres an hour.

Our neighbour learned something about the standard of local workmanship when the security screens at one end of her house blew away. With the help of a couple of neighbours we chased them down, fetched them out of trees and tied them roughly back into place. They will be at least a partial deterrence against burglars, who we have no reason for thinking will suspend operations for a bit of bad weather.

The electricity came back on for a couple of hours in the evening, but went off again until the next morning. The cyclone didn't end as I thought it might, just gradually fading out. At times the winds would drop and we would think that was the end. Then they picked up again and torrential rain would fall again. It's still doing that now - midday on Friday.

One of the interesting things we noticed was how different people reacted to the impending storm. People who were well off were joking about it beforehand and some were even excited. However, poor people looked worried. This is because either they or their families live in houses that are not so well constructed and there was a real risk that the roof could blow off or worse. Also, many people are dependent on the fruit and vegetables that they grow themselves and a cyclone usually does considerable damage to gardens and vegetable plots.

This was really brought home to us this morning. Our wealthier neighbours have gardeners clearing up fallen trees and branches, and the pool boy clearing out their swimming pools while they supervise operations. The poorer neighbours meanwhile are facing devastation. Some of their houses blew down and they are recovering what they can from their small plantations of papaya, avocado and banana trees. In most cases every single tree was blown down and they are going to have trouble feeding themselves.

Although there will probably be government relief programmes, our experience of this happening in Fiji is that corrupt or incompetent officials will still be sitting on emergency food and other supplies several months from now, while ordinary people struggle to cope. Maybe Vanuatu will be different...

The gap between rich and poor is rarely seen as starkly as this though.

Peter
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Postby Savannah_Alan » Fri 27 Feb 2004 04:00 GMT

Thanks for sharing that Peter.

I sincerely hope things work out for your poorer neighbours.

Glad that you and yours are OK. We are coming into our fourth year here in South Georgia with no hurricanes. I really don't want to find out what one is like, but statistics say it's only time...

Alan.
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Postby Not-Lorna » Fri 27 Feb 2004 15:34 GMT

I'm ashamed to say I was complaining that it was only 1C this morning. :oops:
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Postby SSue » Sat 28 Feb 2004 07:24 GMT

We've witnessed a few very bad storms, where so many suburbs have been declared disaster areas. Trees have fallen on houses and killed occupants, house rooves blown off, and power lines blown down, and we also lost our pergola and the small roof it was fixed too, in one storm. It's so traumatic, and the noise is frightening, I hope I'm never so close again. That's the problem with living in the tropics, we get such extreme weather conditions, and I've never seen or heard winds like we experience here.

Glad you escaped any damage, Peter.

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Postby Graeme » Sat 28 Feb 2004 16:21 GMT

Glad you managed to get through it okay Peter!
I've been in a sandstorm and a small tornado in Phoenix, blizzards in Canada, hail that removed all the tile on my roof and dented all the cars but nothing as bad as you described. I feel for sorry for the poor there, they won't have any insurance and a weather event like this is life altering for them. It's a great pity the wealth of the world wasn't distributed a little more equitably.
Pop over to Ruggies and I'll buy you a Newcastle Brown to take the edge off (and maybe the paint) :)

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Postby pmforster » Sun 29 Feb 2004 23:48 GMT

Graeme wrote:Glad you managed to get through it okay Peter!
I've been in a sandstorm and a small tornado in Phoenix, blizzards in Canada, hail that removed all the tile on my roof and dented all the cars but nothing as bad as you described. I feel for sorry for the poor there, they won't have any insurance and a weather event like this is life altering for them. It's a great pity the wealth of the world wasn't distributed a little more equitably.
Pop over to Ruggies and I'll buy you a Newcastle Brown to take the edge off (and maybe the paint) :)

Graeme


Thanks for all the best wishes and the offer of a bottle of Dog (what Geordies call Broon Ale).

We were talking to a ni-Vanuatu guy from a nearby village, at the weekend. He said that a couple of government officials came round asking them about the amount of damage they had and what they were doing with their crops etc. However, he also said that that is usually the last you see of anyone from the government. It never actually turns into material help. It's a real shame because Vanuatu is probably the cyclone capital of the world. They get a few every year during the cyclone season (November to April), although it seems to be the northern islands that are worst affected.

Oh well, back to work...

Peter
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