AFAP manages the Australian-Pacific Centre for Emergency and Disaster Information (APCEDI) to provide news on natural disaster events in the Asia-Pacific region and to help with rapid disaster response assessment. This was originally a communications network that was activated during a disaster to disseminate information to our Asia-Pacific NGO offices. Now APCEDI has a much wider application across the Asia-Pacific Region.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

APCEDI Alert 07P, Cyclone Heta #11, 2004

Dear Colleagues

Alert #11 / 07 January 2004, Sydney 14:00 EDT

Cyclone Heta has passed into the Southern Ocean and will not pose any more threat to land expect for large swells continuing for seas around Niue, the Cooks and Southern Tonga.

Situation in Niue
Communications have been restored with the New Zealand High Commission in Niue. A state of Emergency has been officially declared. New Zealand’s High Commissioner, Ms Sandra Lee Vercoe have reported widespread severe to locally catastrophic damage across the island as predicted in previous APCEDI reports. With the eyewall of the Category 4 Super-Cyclone having gone straight over the island, this was inevitable and now has been confirmed. Brad Tattersfield from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has relayed the following message from the High Commissioner via Radio New Zealand.

“The main town of Alofi has been flattened she says there has been at least one death and several injuries caused by the cyclone. Many buildings have been damaged including the hospital, a fuel dump and a satellite dish used as telephone communication. Power and phone links are down, many roads are closed and crops are badly damaged so it’s a pretty grim scene at the moment.”

New Zealand is now preparing an immediate relief shipment which will leave later today pending confirmation of ability to land in Niue.

Situation in Tonga
Radio New Zealand reports that the Acting Prime Minister Clive Edwards will go to Tafahi and Niuatoputapu to personally assess the situation with a team of Government officials later today. As also predicted in the APCEDI reports, further analysis of the situation in both Tafahi and Niuatoputapu paints a more grave picture of the situation than initially thought. The houses described in yesterday’s APCEDI report as destroyed were actually permanent brick, mortar and wood structures. Damage and destruction of traditional houses in now confirmed at near 100% on Tafahi and above 75% on Niuatoputapu. Near 100% crop damage is also confirmed for both islands. Even in Niuafo’ou far to the west is reporting 50% crop destruction. However thankfully it is confirmed that there was no loss of life or serious injuries.

Situation in Samoa
A Government assessment team in now in Savai’i to do a detailed assessment of the considerable damage to this large island. Many villages have been out of contact since the storm hit over 2 days ago. Damage reports continue to come out of Upolu and from around the capital. While water has been restored to many areas of Apia, electricity is still out in part of the capital and much of the rural area.

AFAP/FSPI Response
Ms Dawn Pale’soo, AFAP/FSPI Disaster Program Coordinator will be returning to her native Samoa next week once the initial assessments are completed. She will work with the NDMO, the FSP partner and the relevant ministries to determine what medium-longer term relief is needed and what longer-term rehabilitation and development needs will be required. Once this is determined AFAP and FSPI will work with AusAID and other donors to see what response would be in order for AFAP and the FSPI Network. Ms Pale’soo will also be working with our Tonga Trust Office and the Tongan NDMO to make similar determinations for Tafahi and Niuatoputapu. FSPI has no representation in Niue. As Niue is a New Zealand dependency, NZAID would likely be the main source of recovery in this case, although FSPI will work with the Niue and New Zealand officials to determine longer-term rehabilitation and development needs with which the FSPI Network could assist.

More detailed information about the storm can be found on

Kevin Vang
APCEDI Coordinator

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