Pacific Islands – Thousands Affected by Floods After Heavy Rain and Storm Surge

Severe weather brought by storms and tropical cyclones Penny and Mona, has affected several Pacific islands over the last 2 weeks. At least 3 deaths have been reported with a further 6 people thought to be still missing.

Strong wind has damaged homes and crops, while heavy rain and storm surge has caused widespread flooding. Red Cross volunteers have been helping with evacuations and relief operations in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. Flooding was also reported in parts of Papua New Guinea.

Meanwhile in Vanuatu, activity of the Yasur volcano is continuing and the Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 2, according to the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department.

Storm damage in the Solomon Islands, January 2019. Photo: Red Cross in the Pacific

Solomon Islands

Flooding has affected over 22,000 people in the Solomon Islands after days of heavy rain that began in late December.

Heavy rain was reported in parts of the islands from 27 December. During the following 3 days the weather station at Honiara / Henderson recorded a total of over 350mm of rain. More heavy rain – associated with Tropical Cyclone Penny – has fallen over the last few days. According to local reports, some areas have been flooded for 6 successive days.

Radio New Zealand said “The Solomons has been afflicted by heavy rain and strong winds for the last two weeks, which have caused rivers to bust their banks and sweep through villages on the main islands of Malaita and Guadalcanal.”

The Disaster Management Office said food supplies and health and sanitation packs were needed as the risk of water and mosquito borne diseases was rising.

Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC), quoting National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) reported on 06 January that an estimated 23,708 people have been affected (4,480 households). NEOC said livelihoods and infrastructure have been affected in Guadalcanal, Isabel, Makira and Malaita. Evacuations have also been carried out in Honiara. Red Cross reported that around 200 homes were damaged in Malaita.

Local media reported 3 deaths as a result of the bad weather, in Isabel, Western, and Guadalcanal. Six people were also thought to be missing at sea in Makira-Ulawa and Western provinces.

Tropical Cyclone Penny Heads for Queensland

Tropical Cyclone Penny is continuing west over the Coral Sea towards the north-east coast of Queensland, Australia.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said that Penny has weakened below cyclone strength and is approaching the Queensland coast as a low.

Bureau of Meteorology Weather Services Manager, Dr Richard Wardle, said there was still a moderate chance the low could re-intensify to cyclone strength, but the most likely scenario is that it will cross the coast as a low.

“Either way, heavy rainfall and damaging winds will be the main impacts,” he said.

“A severe weather warning is in place for coastal regions between Alva Beach and Sarina for damaging winds and heavy rainfall which may lead to flash flooding, particularly over the southern flank of the system.

“Heavy rain will initially develop around coastal regions from tomorrow (Tuesday) with isolated falls in excess of 200mm possible.

“Damaging winds with wind peak gusts of around 90 kilometres an hour may develop over the Whitsunday Islands as early as tonight.

“Ex-tropical Cyclone Penny is then forecast to move in a northerly direction along the Queensland coast during the week, bringing heavy falls northern coastal catchments which have already experienced recent heavy rain and may be more responsive.”

The Bureau has issued a new Flood Watch today for coastal catchments from St Lawrence to Cape Tribulation including the Mackay, Townsville and Cairns surrounding regions.

Papua New Guinea

Local media reported flooding in Jiwaka Province, Papua New Guinea, on 02 January and a period of heavy rain caused the Minj River in South Wagh to overflow.

The flooding has caused severe hardship for the local population after it damaged homes, destroyed food gardens and polluted water sources. No fatalities were reported.

Marshall Islands and Kiribati

A tropical storm on 02 to 04 January 2019 brought heavy rain and thunderstorms to parts of Kiribati and the Marshall Islands. Authorities warned of potential storm surges of over 3 metres.

There were some reports of flooding on the Kiribati islands of Tamana and Tarawa after storm surges and heavy rain. Bonriki on Tarawa atoll recorded 366.5 mm of rain in 72 hours to 04 January, 2019.

Red Cross said that teams are busy monitoring the impact of the floods in these remote areas, although as yet there are no exact figures for numbers affected.

Fiji

Preparations were underway in Fiji after Cyclone Mona threatened to cause devastation. Over 2,000 people were evacuated and several roads closed after minor flooding and landslides.

Around 06 January Cyclone Mona swerved east around the two main islands and Fiji escaped the worst. The storm is now weakening and, as of 08 January, was located approximately 150 km south-west of Ona Llau Island (Lau Islands, Fiji) and 480 km west of Tongatapu Island (Tonga).

As of 07 January, almost 600 people were still in shelters in 16 evacuations centres, in the Central, Northern, and Eastern Divisions. All evacuation centres are closed in the Western Division.

A tropical cyclone warning remains in effect for Ha’apai, Tongatapu and ‘Eua Islands (Tonga) and a strong wind warning for the southern Lau and Lomaivti Islands (Fiji).

Photo: Cyclone Mona as of 0149 UTC Monday 7 January. Credit: Nadi Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre

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Flood Summary

Last updated: January 17, 2019
Event
Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea, December 2018 to January 2019
Date
December 27, 2018 to January 10, 2019
Type
Coastal flood, Flash flood, Landslide
Cause
Storm surge, Extreme rainfall
Severe weather brought by storms and tropical cyclones Penny and Mona affected several Pacific islands during late December 2018 and early January 2019.

Locations

A - Malaita, Solomon Islands (Solomon Islands)
B - Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands (Solomon Islands)
C - Isabel, Solomon Islands (Solomon Islands)
D - Makira, Solomon Islands (Solomon Islands)
E - Honiara, Solomon Islands (Solomon Islands)
F - Jiwaka Province, Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea)
G - Tamana, Kiribati (Kiribati)
H - Tarawa (Kiribati)
I - Bonriki Airport, Kiribati - Rainfall level 176 mm in 24 hours
J - Honiara / Henderson, Solomon Islands - Rainfall level 147 mm in 24 hours
K - Tingoa (Tina), Solomon Islands - Rainfall level 98.7 mm in 24 hours
L - Munda, Solomon Islands - Rainfall level 69 mm in 24 hours

Magnitude

Storm surge
3 metres
Kiribati - January 2 to January 4, 2019
Estimated figures based on warnings issued.
Rainfall level
176 mm in 24 hours
Bonriki Airport, Kiribati - January 1 to January 2, 2019
All figures via Ogimet. Heavy rainfall was also recorded at Bonriki 02 to 03 January (84.5mm) and 03 to 04 January (106mm).
Rainfall level
147 mm in 24 hours
Honiara / Henderson, Solomon Islands - December 31, 2018 to January 1, 2019
Heavy rain was also recorded during the preceding days 29 to 30 December (68mm) and 30 to 31 December (140mm)
Rainfall level
98.7 mm in 24 hours
Tingoa (Tina), Solomon Islands - December 27 to December 28, 2018
Rainfall level
69 mm in 24 hours
Munda, Solomon Islands - December 26 to December 27, 2018

Damages

Fatalities
3 people
Solomon Islands - December 27, 2018 to January 8, 2019
Local media reported 3 deaths as a result of the bad weather, in Isabel, Western, and Guadalcanal. Six people were also thought to be missing at sea in Makira-Ulawa and Western provinces.
Affected
23,708
Solomon Islands - December 27, 2018 to January 8, 2019
Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC), quoting National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) reported on 06 January that an estimated 23,708 people have been affected (4,480 households)
Evacuated
2000 people
Fiji - January 3 to January 7, 2019
As of 07 January, around 600 people remained in shelters in the Central, Northern, and Eastern Divisions. All evacuation centres are closed in the Western Division.