Cyclone Gita’s wrath and lessons from Ofa

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Tropical Cyclone Gita left just as quickly as it arrived on Friday night and yesterday morning. 

Within six hours, it left hundreds of people devastated as a result of strong winds and flooding. Folks, it sends shivers down the spine to think what more damage it could have done if it stayed on a bit longer.

While it was predicted to be a Category 1 Cyclone, it felt more like a Category 3 at its strongest. We doubt many people had a decent sleep when the Cyclone was at its peak. The howling winds, the heavy rain and the floods that accompanied them were truly scary. Thank God it didn’t last long.

Mind you, for many people badly affected by heavy flooding, its irrelevant that Cyclone Gita was only in Samoa for a few hours. Heavy downpours for several days have once more taken its toll. The flooding we again witnessed yesterday has to be among some of the worst we’ve seen in this country.

The worst affected areas appear to have been places close to the menacing Vaisigano river, which again showed just how devastating it can be in times like this.

Looking at some of the early pictures of the damage done, this is another Cyclone Evan and more. Images taken from other villages away from Apia showed that flooding was a major part of this cyclone and perhaps even more devastating than the winds.

When it comes to flooding, we thought we’d seen the worst during Cyclone Evan when it decimated areas like Lelata,Fa’atoiaand Vaisigano. Obviously not. This time it reached a lot more places – including as far as Moata’a.

And if Scientists and climate change related predictions are anything to go by, flooding is something we will just have to get used to. 

Truth be told, I guess the disappointment will have to be that the progress of work to try and avoid what happened during Cyclone Evan has not been quick enough to avoid a repeat.The fact is the same people who suffered back in 2012 have again been hit the hardest. It is heartbreaking to see.

Images of the damage that has again been done to iconic places like the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel are just heartbreaking. It was only a few years ago that they managed to recover from Evan and now they have been hit again. And spare a thought for many other families in the areas – many of them having had to be evacuated.

The good news is that we have not been told of any casualties yet. When this piece was compiled last night, Prime Minister TuilaepaSa’ileleMalielegaoi confirmed that no report of any casualty has been brought to their attention.

But let’s not be complacent. 

It is true that Cyclone Gita is moving away from us. But lessons from the past should always be a reminder to us that it’s not over until it is really over.

Remember what happened during Cyclone Ofa? Just when we thought that the worst was over, Ofa returned with a vengeance.

So let’s not be caught off guard again. 

What’s important is that we continue to remain prepared for whatever happens. We are in a season of cyclones and there are many systems developing that could impact us. 

The warning from the Ministry of Police is extremely important.

“We urge members of the public to remain vigilant as we are experiencing rough weathers due to cyclone Gita,” they said.

“We advise families to remain indoors and not to drive around Apia town area or near bridges and rivers. Flooding remains effective for all areas of Samoa. 

“Overflowing rivers should not be crossed and we urge drivers not to put their lives or others at risk by trying to do so. 

“Please note that power has been cut due to falling trees and flying debris. E.P.C. officials are working around the clock to provide assistance to Samoa. Do not let your children near falling powerlines.”

The Police also advised members of the public against travelling to areas such as Fugalei, Lelata, Maagao, Vaisigano, Vaimoso-uta due to flooding. 

“All airports and wharfs are closed down until further noticed. 

“The Disaster Management Officials are also carrying out clean up work. Therefore, we ask that everyone remain indoors for their safety and not to get in the way of the clean up work. Although some may feel the urge to take pictures for their facebook profile but this is not the time to do so. Please stay safe out there Samoa.”

Well we couldn’t agree more.

Lastly, as we said before, in our prayers, let’s remember everyone who have been working during the past few days to ensure your safety. 

Keep the Police, Fire and Emergency Services Authority, Samoa Met Office, health workers at all hospitals, Disaster Management Office officials, Samoa Red Cross Society, Samoa Water Authority, Electric Power Corporation officials, Radio announcers on AM and FM, tourism workers, the Good Samaritans and everyone else in your prayers.

Stay safe Samoa, God bless!

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