Extreme weather conditions, and the need to be smart about it in Samoa

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Alexander Rheeney

Tropical Cyclone Mona in Fiji, severe flooding in the Solomon Islands, flash floods in Papua New Guinea, unseasonal storms in Kiribati and Marshall Islands, and heavy rains and strong wind in Samoa — we have entered 2019 with uncertainty and a cause for concern at the impact of these extreme weather on the lives of the people.

These are times when State agencies, which are charged with the responsibility to respond in times of emergency, are expected to be on standby and ready to respond at short notice to calls for assistance.

Ask an emergency doctor or physician and he or she will tell you that a faster response can equate to better patient outcomes, dig further and you will find out that a response time of 8 minutes or less — is critical for what they term “advanced life support” (ALS) units — to respond to life-threatening events facing a person and to save his or her life!  

But in Samoa, just like in other parts of the Pacific, authorities are often plagued by capacity issues (such as the absence of skilled medical personnel) and the lack of resources to effectively respond in times of emergency. Often, it can be impossible for the Samoa Fire and Emergency Services (FESA), to evacuate a person in a life-threatening situation to the hospital in 8 minutes or less. 

So with all that is happening in Samoa in recent days, staff at State-funded entities such as FESA need our support and understanding. Public information from the Ministry of Police or the Samoa Meteorological Service that is disseminated through the media — on radio, television and social media — should be taken seriously and passed on to our families, friends and other members of the public.

Public recreational areas on Upolu and Savai’i — where the risk of injury could be high — should be avoided at all cost. Businesses in the tourism sector, including hotels and guest houses, have a duty of care to their guests and patrons and should warn them to take precaution by staying indoors if required. 

The Samoa Meteorological Service advised at 6.00pm last night that its severe weather caution is still current for the country, due to Tropical Cyclone Mona in the northern part of Fiji Islands.

“Tropical Cyclone Mona Category 1 was located at 14.5S, 178.9E or 1,000 km West of Apia at 2:00pm today. The system is maintaining its southeast movement at 10 knots (20 kph) remains over the Northern parts of the Fiji Islands. 

“TC Mona is expected to make landfall over Vanualevu tonight as per consensus track forecast and will not have a direct impact to Samoa,” stated the Samoa Meteorological Service.

And for Samoa, the Service said: “Expect heavy rain, strong and gusty northerly wind flow from tonight into tomorrow. High developing Northerly swells is expected to affect coastal waters for today and tomorrow. Local flash-floods and landslides will be likely for vulnerable areas.”

On that note that we see the barrage of criticism that the national carrier Samoa Airways has come under in the last 24 hours, over the cancellation of its Sydney-Samoa flight last Saturday. 

And acknowledge the discomfort that some passengers had to experience at the Kingsford-Smith International Airport in Sydney last Saturday, after the aircraft was diverted by Australian aviation authorities to Canberra — after Sydney was hit by extreme weather.

Unfortunately, it was totally out of the hands of the aircraft crew and the airline and the criticism from some of the passengers was unwarranted — knowing that passenger safety remains paramount for both local and international airlines.

And with the country currently experiencing extreme weather, thanks to Tropical Cyclone Mona, we somewhat ironically note the announcement by controversial helicopter company Samoa Helicopters Limited of their return to Samoa — after a two-year absence.

“Hello Samoa, and a very happy safe and prosperous 2019 to you all. There are some exciting new developments, and thank you for all your kind messages of encouragement. I look forward to being back in Samoa to assist getting the popular service up and flying again. 

“I also have never spoken about why the service had to stop, and why I had to leave Samoa, perhaps I’ll tell all when I’m back. However, the most important focus should be to get the life saving, and scenic flight operation back working for the people of Samoa,” the company stated in its Facebook post last Friday.

Well, we can only hope for the best for Samoa, as the resumption of a medical evacuation and emergency service in the country will go a long way in saving lives as we intermitted earlier. So if it is to really happen, then do it properly this time and with the participation of all the relevant stakeholders. The job of saving lives should be taken seriously.

What do you think Samoa? Write and let us know. Have a wonderful Monday and God bless. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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