Response to natural disaster given boost

Samoa’s ability to respond to natural disasters was given a major boost yesterday with a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the building of a $6.4 million National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC).

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, told guests that the center will be a first for Samoa and boost the Government’s response systems.

“This state of the art building will enhance our responses to disaster by providing a broad range of coordinated actions through technological advancement." 

“The NEOC is a component of the Pacific Resilience Program (PREP) funded by the World Bank through a grant, and implemented by the Disaster Management Office of the MNRE." 

“The PREP is consistent with Samoa’s strategy for Development of Samoa 2017-2020 which has incorporated climate and disaster risk and resilience to all the sectors and makes them accountable to implement resilient actions,” Fiame said.

The center will support the nation’s efforts to reduce its vulnerability to climate change from natural disasters, added the Deputy Prime Minister, through the provision of early warning systems and finance recovery mechanisms in the wake of disasters. 

“The NEOC will be a two-storey building, with the latest technology and equipment to assist DMO and MNRE to produce accurate information for the public in times of disaster. It will increase the resilience of Samoa and the Pacific region as a whole to natural hazards such as cyclones, coastal-riverine flooding, volcanoes, tsunamis and earthquakes by improving the quality of forecast and warning services,” she added.

The proposed center will compliment the objectives of the National Disaster Management Plan 2017-2020, which Fiame said was launched last year. As a signatory to a number of international conventions including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement, the Deputy Prime Minister said the center will be an acknowledgement of work being done to address climate change through multiple stakeholders. These include responders, logistics, village communities, development partners, non-government organisations and the Australian and New Zealand governments. 

Fiame said the construction of the center will be done by Zheng Company Ltd at a total cost of $6.4 million. It was designed by Kramer Ausenco (Samoa) Ltd who will also supervise the construction work. The construction will take 14 months and is expected to be completed April 2020. 

Guests at the ground-breaking ceremony yesterday at Tuanaimato included the World Bank Director (Strategy Operations) Xianqing Yu, Cabinet ministers, members of the diplomatic community, and the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil.

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