Assessment Report on the damage done by cyclone Ita in Milne Bay Province
Cyclone Ita hit Milne Bay Province on 7-9 April 2014. The area worst hit is the southeastern part of the province where the diocese has three parishes: Misima, Nimoa and Jinjo (Rossel). John Vianney was sent there by the diocesan Health Secretary to assess the damage done to the health centres. B Sr. Yolly and myself accompanied him. Since we could not proceed to Nimoa and Jinjo due to bad weather, Sr. Yolly and myself went to the District Administrator’s Office in Misima (28 May 2014) and interviewed Mr. Philip Weni (community development officer) and Mr. Emmanuel Levi (district treasurer). These two have personally visited the areas affected by the cyclone. We also talked with the local people who saw the situation in Nimoa and Misima.
- The areas worst hit by the cyclone are those lying in the southcoast of Sudest, from Western Point to Rehuwo, which are part of Yeleyamba LLG (Sudest, Rossel and the East Calvados Chain of Islands). Thank God, there were no human casualties. The people lost their houses and most of the food gardens on which they depended for their survival. Sago plantations were uprooted. Coconuts, bananas, yams and cassavas were badly damaged. Berche-de-mer were floating dead and destroyed by the cyclone. It will take 5 to 6 months before their gardens can produce again. Those not responsible enough to plant and plan for the future will face the risk of suffering from starvation in the coming months unless they get some outside help.
- As of last census, there are more than 2,000 households and about 12,000 people living in Yeleyamba. 2/3 of Sudest and the East Calvados were badly affected, and about 1/3 of Rossel equally affected. There are about 6-10 people in a household. The East Calvados extends from Nimoa to Bomalo.
- Schools and classrooms were damaged. A double classroom in Rehuwo (Catholic) was destroyed. One of the primary schools is being used as a refuge by families who stay there until they are able to rebuild their houses.
- Badly hit by the cyclone are Madawa and Western Point (both Catholic), and Jelawaga, Pamela, Pantaba and Rehuwo (mixed).
- The roof of a girls’ dormitory in Nimoa came off, but was repaired. The VSAT disk of Hope Academy was toppled down.
- Several food gardens were badly damaged by landslides and flooding, and people can experience a food shortage in two months time. The post-cyclone scenario can be worse.
- The south port was gravely hit. Abeleti, Jaru and Saman were the worst hit.
- Gardens were severely damaged. School buildings and materials were damaged.
- The situation here is no that bad, though all the areas of Misima were affected by the strong winds and rains brought about by cyclone Ita. Food gardens were destroyed due to flooding and landslides. Three houses were blown off in one of the wards. Bananas have fallen but new ones are starting to sprout.
- The governor gave Sudest K10,000 worth of foodstuff from donations given by business establishments (Alotau Enterprises, Cheongs, Jade island).
- The disaster office and the 3 MPs also sent some help.
- The Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House also gave their donations, and a barge of goods was distributed by the governor. The supplies were given to people from the Calvados chain of islands to the Sudest. Each household received two packets of 1 kg. rice plus other items.
- Misima has not received any supplies, money or materials though it has also been affected. Those with the government on the ground, who did the assessment and sent the letters for donations, did not receive any supplies. People are still waiting.
- There is a rumor that two containers were sent back to Alotau. This issue was brought up to the provincial administrator with the demand that they be returned to Misima.
- Nimoa Catholic Health Centre gave away K3,000 worth of foodstuff.
- Caritas Alotau gave K2,500 to the parish priest of Misima. Caritas PNG is giving money which will go to the parish of Jinjo. The MSCs are donating money to Nimoa through Fr. Tony Young.
- The Member for Kiriwina sent seeds of yam and sweet potatoes for planting.
- People and nature seem to know how to bounce back after a disaster. As one old man said, “People in these islands are used to cyclones. They know what to do. With the help of God, we will recover. Only those who are lazy will starve.”
- Nobody has really approached the government or the church for help. They know that they cannot just rely on hand-outs. 3 or 5 packets of rice will not go a long way. Moreover, donations have not really reached those who are deserving of help. The only way out is to take responsibility themselves.
- In spite of the damage done to the food gardens, it does not look like the people will be suffering from starvation in the coming months. The people have started rebuilding their gardens. Nature also has been bouncing back. New bananas are sprouting. Sago trees will take probably 15 years to mature, but if the people harvested sago from the fallen trees, they will have enough for a long time. If they harvested the yam gardens soon after the floods, these will not rot and they will have enough to stack for the future. They need to plant new seeds. In the meantime, they have the sea and food gardens not affected by the cyclone. Solidarity with those who have less will be helpful.
- There will always be those who are not as fortunate as the rest, and who might need some help. The village/community leaders can help identify who these people are and their needs.
- The district community development officer gave us the following suggestion:
- Food supplies: rice, flour, salt
- Water containers in places where water supplies were badly damaged.
- Canvass to act as temporary shelter for those still rebuilding their homes.
- ½ to 6 inch nails to construct.
- The parishes of Nimoa and Jinjo will serve as distribution centers. Leaders bring their lists. No cash money will be given.
- An appeal for donations will be sent to the faithful of the diocese, to Caritas PNG/Australia and the bishops of the other dioceses. Donations will be deposited to the bank account of Caritas Alotau. The diocesan administration office and the OIC of Caritas Alotau will take charge of the appeal and the donations.
Report done by +Rolando Santos, C.M., Bishop of Alotau, 29 May 2018, Misima.