EDITORIAL: Preparation For Cyclones Better

The Water Safety Council of Fiji report on drowning released yesterday is timely. It says that 77 per cent of drownings happen during the cyclone season between November and April.
14 Mar 2015 09:28
EDITORIAL: Preparation For Cyclones Better

The Water Safety Council of Fiji report on drowning released yesterday is timely.

It says that 77 per cent of drownings happen during the cyclone season between November and April.

We are in that season now and we face the possibility of floods caused by heavy rains from Cyclone Pam.

A damning statistic in the report is that 23 per cent of victims are toddlers.

The other eye-opener is that drowning last year cost the nation $14 million in losses.

These losses could have been prevented if proper care and precautions were taken.

The council, in addition to Police and Government, has given some common sense advice to people to stay out of harm’s way during Cyclone Pam. If people follow the tips, risks of tragedies can be minimised.

We list some council tips and information here to help people keep their children and them safe.

According to the council:

Major causes of death during floods and cyclones are people entering floodwaters. This includes driving vehicles, river crossing, walking and children playing in floodwaters.  “Floodwater is often deeper and faster flowing than it appears; it is also full of hidden debris,” said John Philp, director of the Water Safety Council. “Large volumes of fast flowing water can come and go very quickly, sucking in or trapping anyone who gets close to drains and pipes. These places are dangerous to play in when flooded. They can be slippery, have strong pulling power and can be very hard to get out of,” he said.

People travelling by boat should be mindful of weather forecasts during rainy weather conditions and to avoid travelling when heavy rain and strong wind warnings are in place. Mr Philp said, “Drowning prevention is everyone’s responsibility. “We need to get serious about how we tackle drowning prevention in this country which is the central focus of WSCF.”

Yes, we need to take this warning seriously. From experience, we have learned that there is a lull before the storm hits. In the case of Cylcone Pam, we should still take the necessary precautions even though it was heading to Vanuatu away from Fiji  yesterday. It has been predicted that it will bring rain and there will be possible flooding.

The waterways in the low lands may have not risen to threatening levels yet. It does not mean that the danger has passed. If heavy rain falls in the hills then we can expect associated floods to follow. That could happen soon, maybe overnight. The message is never be complacent. Listen to the latest updates from the National Disaster Management Council.

Adi Cakobau School in Sawani, Naitasiri, must be commended for moving swiftly yesterday to keep its boarders safe. It called Suva and Nausori parents to take their children home to create space for Year 13 students whose dormitory was under flood threat. Reports have also come from Nadi and other towns in the West that people are not waiting for the water level to rise. They are taking the moral high ground that it is better to err on the side of caution.

Businesses are securing their stocks and taking them to safer places. Farmers are taking their livestock to higher grounds. They do not want a repeat of  what happened in the last big flood when they were literally caught by the rushing waters before they could do anything.

The decision to close schools yesterday and the daily updates from the National Disaster Management Office show we are not taking any chances. Collectively we have strengthened our national preparedness.

That’s a good sign.



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