Yesterday was a historical day in as far as the fight against climate change and global warming is concerned. It was when leaders from around the world – including our very own Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi - gathered in New York to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change (see story front page).
In doing so, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Tupua Ban Ki-moon, issued a timely reminder to world leaders, warning that they are in a race against time to help the countries vulnerable to the devastating impact of climate change.
While the PR spinners will make a lot of noise about the deal being record-breaking, we couldn’t agree more with Tupua when he reminded that away from New York, records of the type nobody wants are the reality of daily life elsewhere.
For instance, there are record global temperatures, record ice loss and record carbon levels in the atmosphere wreaking havoc on innocent people who perhaps had very little – if anything at all – to do with climate change.
And that includes us in Samoa – and many of our Pacific island brothers and sisters.
Ironically, while they were making all those wonderful noises in New York yesterday, the people of this country were bracing to face the reality of yet another natural disaster. We had people literally running for their lives, scared about the cost and the consequence of another cyclone.
It would not be totally correct for us to say that Cyclone Amos is the result of climate change because we know that cyclones have existed in this part of the region as far back as we can remember.
But it would also be foolish to ignore the frequency with which they are occurring and the times they are hitting us.
I mean a cyclone in April in Samoa?
We’ve never had it before. And lets not forget our brothers and sisters across the waters in Fiji who have been hit by no less than three cyclones this year, including that devastating category 5 hurricane called Winston.
For sure, no one would want to be in their shoes. Imagine then being told that there is another cyclone breathing down your neck after all that devastation?
But this is the reality for us in the Pacific.
On top of rising sea levels that are drowning some of our islands, we are all vulnerable to natural disasters, which lately have become very common occurrences. It is why Tupua’s message to world leaders at this time in New York could not be sweeter to our ears.
“I urge all countries to move quickly to join the Agreement at the national level so that the Paris Agreement can enter into force as early as possible,” he said.
“The window for keeping global temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degress, is rapidly closing.
“The era of consumption without consequences is over. We must intensify efforts to decarbonize our economies. And we must support developing countries in making this transition.
“The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create.”
Indeed, we are the victims of a crime we did not commit. We have become the sacrificial lamb because of the greed and selfishness of bigger countries who obviously do not care.
Here in Samoa today, there is little time to moan. There is little time to complain. We have a cyclone breathing down our neck and all we can do is be prepared, stay alert, listen to updates, remain calm and pray.
We must remain calm and be rational in our decision making as we prepare our homes and families.
And in the case, you are not sure what do before, during and after a cyclone, we are reprinting the following tips to help you protect yourself, families and your property.
Stay safe Samoa, God bless!
WHEN A CYCLONE WARNING IS ISSUED
• Re-check your house for any loose material and tie down
• Check your emergency kit and fill water containers
• Ensure you know where the strongest part of the building is
• Park vehicles under solid shelter (hand brake on and in gear)
• Close shutters or board-up or heavily tape all windows. Draw curtains and lock doors
• Pack an evacuation kit of warm clothes, essential medications, valuables and important papers (as well as your emergency kit)
• Trim treetops and branches well clear of any structures
• Preferably fit shutters/metal screens to all glass areas
• Clear the property of loose material that could blow about and possibly cause injury or damage
WHEN THE CYCLONE STRIKES
• Listen to updates on the radio, stay inside, stay calm.
• Disconnect all electrical appliances.
• Stay inside and shelter (well clear of windows) in the strongest part of the building, i.e. cellar, internal hallway or bathroom. Keep evacuation and emergency kits with you
• If the building starts to break up, protect yourself with mattresses, rugs or blankets under a strong table or bench or hold onto a solid fixture, e.g. a water pipe
• Beware the calm ‘eye’. If the wind drops, don’t assume the cyclone is over; violent winds will soon resume from another direction. Wait for the official ‘all clear’
• Don’t go outside until officially advised it is safe
• Check for gas leaks. Don’t use electrical appliances if wet
• If you have to evacuate, or did so earlier, don’t return until advised. Use a recommended route and don’t rush
• Beware of damaged power lines, bridges, buildings, trees, and don’t enter floodwaters
• Heed all warnings and don’t go sightseeing
• Don’t make unnecessary telephone calls
WHAT YOU NEED IN
AN EMERGENCY KIT
• Portable battery radio
• Torch and spare batteries
• Water containers, dried or canned food & can opener
• Matches, fuel lamp, portable stove, cooking and eating equipment
• First aid kit and manual
• Tape & waterproof bags
• Store somewhere safe and handy
• Fire and Emergency Services: 994
• Police: 995
• Ambulance: 996
• NEOC: 997