SPC Geoscience Division


Cyclone Winston survey sets new baseline for damage data

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1 April 2016, Suva

Coastal hazard experts from the Pacific Community (SPC) have surveyed wind and wave damage from tropical cyclone Winston in more than 40 communities across the provinces of Bua, Cakaudrove, and Lomaiviti in Fiji last week, producing detailed data that will have immediate and long-term benefits for Fiji and the region.

As part of SPC’s assistance to the Government of Fiji following the devastating category 5 cyclone, two teams of oceanographers and damage assessment specialists designed and carried out simultaneous surveys, covering roughly 250 km of coastline over five days.

Planned in collaboration with Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and Mineral Resource Department and with support from the World Bank, the surveys assessed building damage, the status of water and sanitation, and the extent of coastal inundation on the island of Ovalau and the southern coast of Vanua Levu.

In Ovalau, the highest recorded wave run-up was more than seven metres high at the Ovalau Holiday Resort – almost as tall as a three-story building.

The worst affected areas of Vanua Levu were in the Kubulau District of Bua and along the coast from Savusavu to Naweni, where the wave run-up reached five metres in the village of Nukubalavu, and the maximum inundation extent recorded was 183 metres inland in Tacilevu Village.

“This is the most comprehensive building damage data set that exists for any cyclone in the Pacific to date,” SPC Deputy Director-General, Dr Audrey Aumua, said.

“It will be used as a regional baseline for future damage assessments and to better predict inundation and wind impact on buildings.”

Provincial Administrators are already applying SPC’s assessment results to guide their ongoing response to the most affected communities in their districts.

In addition to the value they provide for Fiji, the survey results – progressively available on SPC’s Cyclone Winston Spatial Data Resources Portal http://gsd.spc.int/winston/ – also have regional applications.

“These field surveys were critical because we can’t perform detailed building damage and wave run-up analysis using aerial photos alone,” Dr Aumua said.

“The survey also serves to ground-truth damage assessments our Suva-based staff are doing using satellite imagery,” she added.

Inundation extent is a measure of the distance the water reached inland, while wave run-up is a measure of the height of the waterline above normal sea level.

The teams gathered inundation and wave run-up data via systematic measurement of water depth marks on buildings and the location of inland debris, corroborated with eye-witness accounts.

Building and water system characteristics were analysed to determine the cause of damage (wind, wave or both) and to highlight the key features of structures that withstood the storm.

“In the short term, the data will be used to produce hazard maps that will feed directly into the Fiji government-led post-disaster needs assessment,” Dr Aumua explained.

“In the long term, we gain a better understanding of the impacts of events like this, including informing how can we build back safer and stronger, and improve future coastal planning to minimise disaster impacts.”

The eight SPC experts who conducted the surveys were: Cyprien Bosserelle, Deepika Lal, Joy Papao, and Keleni Raqisia in Ovalau and Herve Damlamian, Zulfikar Begg, Mereoni Ketewai and Arieta Navatoga in Vanua Levu.

Media contacts: Molly Powers-Tora    SPC Climate and Oceans Regional Officer, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or +679 3249250 [Appeler : +679 3249250]
Asinate Wainiqolo    SPC Communications and Public Information, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Friday, 01 April 2016 11:49  


Monday 17 June 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) –  The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), with Geoscience Australia, has developed a computer model to help the Government of Tonga see what the impact of a tsunami would be on Tongatapu. Part of an AusAID funded project, the model makes use of high resolution data, the collection of which was made possible by Australia, the European Union, and the New Zealand Ocean Sciences Grant.

The new Tsunami Inundation Model shows that an 8.7 magnitude earthquake in the Tonga Trench would create a wave that would hit the eastern coast of Tongatapu within ten to twenty minutes, inundating most of Nuku’alofa.  Leveni ‘Aho, Director of Tonga’s National Disaster Management Office, says the new computer model has enabled the Government of Tonga to consider how the public would need to respond in a range of possible scenarios.

‘Nuku’alofa has, perhaps, the biggest urban population in the Pacific living in a very low-lying area. We can talk about Japan’s earthquakes but if we can present something that shows what is going to happen to us here at home, the message is much more effective.  For us, it’s an excellent opportunity to help communities to be aware of what could possibly come and what they will need to do if a significant event occurs,’ he says.

After the model was presented to the cabinet and the National Emergency Management Committee, the Hon. Prime Minister Lord Tuʻivakanō indicated that the government would need support to construct access ways to some parts of Nuku’alofa so that the local community can quickly get to safe areas.

Mr ‘Aho says the model is also helping the Government of Tonga to design emergency response measures and improve long-term urban planning for Nuku’alofa and its surrounding villages.‘The tsunami computer model given by SPC has provided the government with a wonderful tool to help us really understand the risks of different scenarios and to prepare in the best ways we can,’ he says.

Mosese Sikivou, Deputy Director of SPC’s Disaster Reduction Programme, says this project is part of SPC’s assistance to Tonga in connection with its Joint National Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management, approved by Cabinet in July 2010. The work to develop the model is part of an integrated approach that SPC and other partners are taking right across the Pacific to try and maximise scarce resources and minimise duplication of effort and potential conflict in policy development.