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16 Mar 15 11:16

Severe tropical cyclones are no strangers to the South Pacific - but they often go unnoticed because they do not usually affect any inhabited places in the vast expanses of the ocean. Not so tropical cyclone Pam! After a steady intensification over the last few days it developed into a storm of the highest intensity and, veering more to the west than initially forecast, it struck directly at Vanuatu's capital of Port Vila during the night of March 13 to March 14.

Given the destruction of communication networks and the wide distances between some of the islands of Vanuatu, it will take days until the full picture of devastation is clear. But reports from the ground confirm the worst fears. A number of people have already been confirmed dead, and many more will have been injured by falling objects and flying debris. This not enough, a large number of people is expected to have lost everything they have built up, including their entire homes. The remoteness of the islands makes relief operations a tremendous logistical challenge. My thoughts are with the victims as they prepare for the first night after the disaster, and I hope that medicine, food and shelter reaches those in need as quickly as possible. My respect and gratitude go to those helpers and organisations already on the ground in Vanuatu.

Private insurance is not widely bought in Vanuatu. Thus, there will be few insurance policy payouts to help mitigate the financial aftermath of tropical cyclone Pam. However, the government of Vanuatu decided three years ago to participate in a regional disaster insurance scheme (Pacific Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Programme) together with some of its Pacific island neighbours. While the entitlement to payouts is not yet confirmed, it seems very likely that the government of Vanuatu will receive funding for its rebuilding efforts through this particular insurance product, reducing the financial burden on citizens, who are already dealing with lost homes, businesses and unfortunately loved ones.


Category: Climate/natural disasters: Disaster risk, Floods/storms

Location: Vanuatu


4 Comments

Bernd Wilke - 16 Mar 2015, 12:25 p.m.

World governments are currently meeting in Sendai on the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction to discuss exactly the problem above:

We help when disaster strikes but we do not enough to prepare our world for disaster

http://www.wcdrr.org/

Money alone won't solve the problem - we need a shift in our mindset. We must prepare for any type of disaster that threatens to disrupt our live and livelihoods - be it a typhoon, storm, flood, drought, wildfire, pandemic, cyber-attack or something else.

If we don't we have to look and too many lives and homes lost in the future.

Alicia Montoya - 19 Mar 2015, 2:03 p.m.

Sounds like 2015 could finally be the year when governments and corporates really work together to put risk at the center of decision-making. Read it from Ivo Menzinger, blogging live from Sendai: https://openminds.swissre.com/stories/778/

Annie Wu - 19 Mar 2015, 8:54 p.m.

I’ve been following this since Friday the 13th when Cyclone Pam struck Port Vila. I was relieved when I received a mobile notification on Saturday that 2 of my cousins checked in on Facebook’s Cyclone Pam Safety Check page. I grew up in Port Vila and we’ve all had our fair share of natural disasters from earthquakes to volcanic eruptions to tropical cyclones, not all as fierce as Pam. Every time we’ve managed to pick ourselves up and move on. I was fortunate enough to have lived in a concrete structure growing up in the capital but not so for everyone else living outside.

We should start thinking about building ’bunker-type structures’ that can withhold tornado strength winds and high waves in each of the villages scattered in all the outlying islands equipped with drinking water and dried biscuits and a siren that would help warn villagers of impending danger. When the next cyclone, storm surge, tsunami is to strike again, at least they’ll be better prepared and seek shelter nearby. The remote villages are the most vulnerable, till now access to them have been painstakingly slow.

Please read more in this Guardian article http://gu.com/p/46mvz

Pam you broke my heart.

David Sinai - 20 Mar 2015, 12:56 a.m.

Whilst we must build resilience to disasters, Cyclone Pam will also (once again) highlight the protection gap issue that exists in many areas.

The Pacific disaster scheme payout will be but a drop in the ocean relative to the cost to individuals and government to rebuild Vanuatu's island nation. How can we close that protection gap here and elsewhere? How can we achieve real scale in schemes like the Pacific disaster scheme.

Perhaps, rather than provide post-event aid every time an event happens in a developing country, should neighbouring developed countries instead fund, on an ex-ante basis, a combination of a) resilience programmes and b) insurance premiums?

There's a lot of risk out there that is not insured, and a lot of excess capital out there that could put to use in protecting those uninsured exposures via schemes like the Pacific disaster scheme. Whilst a dollar of aid post-loss will fix a dollar of damage post event, a dollar of premium aid before the event will gain access to a much more meaningful insurance cover.

Is this something that is perhaps being discussed this week in Sendai?


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