No evacuation centres in SI

Director of NDMO, Loti Yates. Photo by Solomon Today.
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THE Solomon Islands is yet to have evacuation centres despite the possibility of devastating cyclones hitting the country.

And so far, the National Disaster Management Office is using schools as evacuation sites, most of which lack the capacity and the necessary resources to cater for a large population during an event of disaster.

 Director of NDMO, Loti Yates confirmed that no evacuation centre was built and in the event of a disaster, acquiring these shelters as requisition assets could only be made through a disaster declaration by the National Disaster Council.

The use of schools as evacuation centres, however, can only be done when a declaration of disaster is made.

The Director said even with these schools, there are limited resources available to respond to the challenges presented by a huge influx of people to these centres.

“We experienced this during the 2014 floods, when we realised that we needed extra toilets, extra water waters when delivering services at the evacuation sites.

“The schools are designed to hold a number of students 3-8 hours a day, limited resources there is designed to suit that population during that time, not to host people for weeks, and months.

“So we haven’t gone as far in ensuring we have proper evacuation centres in place,” Mr Yates added.

He said there are minimum standards for humanitarian response that must be adhered to when building an evacuation center.

“The number of people in rooms, the number of families, calculated by the number of water tanks to drink and their volume, the number of toilets to use, these are some of the standards we have to meet.”

He also pointed out that building one is going to be expensive as there is also the issue of sustainability and whether it could be used to facilitate other activities when there is no disaster.

Meanwhile, the threat of a devastating cyclone hitting the Solomon Islands is a possibility according to the Director of the Meteorological service, David Hiriasia.

He said while the Solomon Islands are used to the formation stages of cyclones in the region, we should not rule out systems with the devastating effects of categories 3-5 strength from hitting us.

He said one such cyclone to have made direct impact on the county in the past was cyclone Namu three decades ago.

He said the Cyclone Namu system was formed up north in the Malaita Outer Islands before it travels down.

“As cyclones travel down it tends to intensify, and in such an event two of the most vulnerable provinces would be Temotu and Rennell Bellona,” he added.