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Monday, 6 January, 2003, 09:56 GMT
Solomon Islands cyclone: Is enough being done?
New photographs indicate two entire villages on remote South Pacific Islands may have been washed away after being struck by a cyclone on Sunday.
A ship carrying relief supplies is expected to arrive in Tikopia and the other island, Anuta, on Saturday.
The vessel was delayed by five days because of a lack of money to buy fuel and pay the crew's wages.
Aid could not be airlifted to Tikopia and Anuta because they do not have airstrips.
The New Zealand Government has joined Australia in pledging further emergency assistance. A second relief boat is scheduled to sail on Friday.
Is enough being done to help the victims of the cyclone? What should the world do?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Cliff Babbs, Hong Kong
Both the Australian and New Zealand governments have demonstrated a complete lack of will, both hiding behind specious claims that they were waiting for "more information". Or are they simply shifting the blame for their ineptness? If freelance cameraman Geoff Mackley could fly there in a Cessna four days ago and then go back and land by helicopter on Friday, why is it so hard for the armed forces with all their resources to do the same?
I appreciate comments made by others saying that not enough has been done to help the people of Tikopia. The problem is that local authorities here do not have the resources or technological capability to act appropriately. This is why outside help is required. On the other hand, other countries such as Australia and New Zealand are ready to help, and they could have helped earlier only that there were bureaucratic requirements to be met. It is standard protocol that no country can help another unless requested formally.
Why hasn't the Red Cross or Oxfam or International rescue (if they exist) launched an appeal and in the mean time chartered a boat and helicopter combination as suggested above??
In the David Dimbleby lecture just before Christmas, the Archbishop of Canterbury elect said that governments' policies are ruled by economic and not moral/ people issues. The inaction of the authorities in this disaster seems to be a case of this. Secondly, have any of the folks who have recorded these emails here, sent their comments to their government members? We should really put them in the picture, and put pressure on them to act.
Of course not enough is being done, because the victims are not strategically relevant to any of the developed countries that could help them! That's just a reality we have to live with, just like the reality that many innocent people will continue to suffer or perish for the sake of wars that humanity continues to wage. If they were a possible source of oil or precious minerals, they would have been helped by now!
I live on an island state too, visited regularly by cyclones. It's a terrible disaster for the people out there. Help should come from all countries beginning by their neighbours. Whatever the magnitude of the disaster, these people need the help of the international community.
What is all this talk about being strategically interesting or not about? It's people in need for help out there! Nobody has ever argued about sending foodstuff to Tristan da Cunha, the island most remote from landmasses being totally dependent on help from outside. If someone's been able to get there with a Cessna, the weather can't be so bad...
It's not a question of money, it's the problem of lack of will. Both Aussie and Kiwi air forces could have started air drops days ago. Argument about lack of recon does not wash: these days you can get pretty sharp pictures from the satellites.
Hans Andersen, Australia
How embarrassing, hundreds of people possibly dead with no fresh water or food, and our illustrious leader says she is "waiting for more information".
It seems the problem is the lack of the hard cash necessary to respond in a timely manner. The major economic powers in the region and the wider international community should not allow this to happen. If the rescue ship had not been delayed for those critical 5 days, I think the response would have been more reasonable. I think it takes at least 3 days to succumb to dehydration (if you're healthy). An air drop of emergency food and drinking water would have gone a long way to saving those lives which are (were?) saveable. Where's the USAF when it could actually do some good in the world?
I have recently returned from my five month stay in Vanuatu which was part of my GAP placement. I lived like the locals of the Pacific Islands teaching on an island which had nothing. I can well imagine that life was the same on the two islands which were hit by Zoe. What upsets me most is that the people which I met did absolutely everything that could to help me, and they want to know all about America and the UK, so why can't we just help those lovely people? The worst thing is about living on islands like these is that everybody knows everybody, and when something like this happens it will not just be the two islands which are affected, it will be each and every individual of that magical country.
Luke Teafangamao, Solomon Islands
As an upper level official of a disaster relief organization I find it difficult to understand the lack of money available for a disaster of this size. It is inconceivable that a country would allow 5 days to go by with no contact with a disaster area. With all due respect this is 2003 - there are countless ways to make contact in remote areas hit by disasters. The world community is filled with willing volunteers that would do whatever it takes to find out what the situation was and to do everything in there power to save what lives they could.
It is refreshing to see the prior comments from Americans showing compassion for the people of this devastated island. If only your government was more interested in helping those in need and less interested in spending billions of your tax dollars on waging war.
I read with utter amazement how some Brits think it is somehow our responsibility when bad things happen to so called "developing" countries. Just how long will they be "developing"? Who helps us when we have catastrophe? No one! Let's get real folks, it's not our problem. If countries can't look after themselves why must we look after them? We have enough of our own problems. NHS, Public transport, John Prescott - enough said!
Instead of sending more than 16,000 troops to Iraq, if US had sent even 100 troops to these islands to help these people, they would have made great contribution to humanity. I do not understand what UN is doing to help these people.
This is the reason why Americans are starting to hate the UN - suddenly there is a great "we" when it comes to money. Since when is somebody in Kenya paying millions of pounds in the Middle East? I am an American - I never, ever, ever wanted to be or want to be a citizen of the world with you begging whiners!
How lucky for you, Deb Curnes that you were born into a rich, powerful nation. It's only luck that separates you from the people of Bhopal, killed and injured by an American chemical company who ran away, or the Chileans murdered by a CIA-backed dictator, or the Nicaraguans who lived through the terrorist campaign America managed, for which they were ordered to pay compensation but never have. How lucky you are!
I recall images of an earthquake in California a couple of years ago. The Red Cross came to the aid of American people, in the country's wealthiest state, as they queued up for help - food, shelter, psychiatric counselling. If Americans in a rich, well-developed country cannot cope with a disaster, can we expect a few thousand Solomon Islanders to manage without outside assistance? Politics be damned! An airdrop of potable water could be real start in helping them get back on their feet. These people might be able to cope admirably but in the twenty-first century no one should be a week away from help.
Australia was very quick to turn to corrupt and bankrupt Pacific islands when it wanted to get rid of its refugee problem. This crisis shows yet again that it is very slow to assist Pacific communities when it is not in its political interests or money cannot be made. Australia is a poor provider of relief worldwide having recently slashed it's already very meagre overseas aid budget. The slow response can be attributed to the increasing isolationism of this country, its growing xenophobia and of course the ever present bureaucratic over-governed state which creates a 'manyana' Australia, a country where inefficiency rules the day even in the armed forces. In short if it's not Australian it doesn't give a hoot.
Contact had been lost with these two islands, how much time has to pass before the Aussies and Kiwi get themselves organized and parachute in people, radios, medical supplies and food. Or was it that they we too busy "enjoying" their festive season?
That part of the world is used to cyclones, and people know what to do when one hits. The Solomon's Government is generally financially irresponsible. Australia and New Zealand is sick of constantly financially supporting them. The rest of the world's not interested.
The problem here is that many developed countries repeatedly overlook the problems of smaller countries.
I'm almost ashamed to be a Kiwi here. This is disgusting and there are no excuses. If it's local politics in Tikopia which are stopping this or slowing it down then we should be ignoring them. These people need help 3-4 days ago, the Aussies and Kiwis should have been in there as soon as it was physically possible. Chopper, sea plane, food drops - whatever. I feel New Zealand is taking the wrong stand on this, we are waiting for more information to come out of Tikopia yet we weren't prepared to send anyone in there to gather that information.
The real reason why the patrol boat has not yet left is not because there is no money to pay for fuel. The Australians have donated enough for that. It is because the police won't leave unless their "allowances" are paid. This is a country without law and order.
Lawrence Makili, Solomon Islands
In places where there are no economic or strategic interests, the world community is always slow to respond.
Something should be done to help these people - air dropped supplies would be useful. The helicopter argument is more than a bit silly, though. Yes, a helicopter could make a one way trip, provided it could make it one way! The only thing that could get there is a long distance cargo plane refuelled in flight.
It's deplorable that Australia and New Zealand (who are the wealthier and most developed countries in the region) are not reacting in a more urgent manner.
Bill Servais, Antarctica
These people have lived like this since before you were born and before your parents were born. The natives have seen more cyclones than episodes of your favourite sitcom. As was stated in the news, the next day they were out tending their gardens, fishing, and waving at planes flying by. If you want to ruin these people, give them money and aid and ruin the self-sufficiency they have honed for generations.
One word to my fellow countryman Mr Silliker who demonstrates why most of the world rightly regards the US as being arrogant. He wrote that we should not be concerned because there is some sort of aboriginal facility for overcoming any natural disaster. However capable one may be at "getting by" things like broken bones, dehydration, and exposure can be better relieved if there is outside help. Help that has been short in coming.
People are asking why it has taken 6 days and counting for some sort of relief effort to be undertaken. I think the simple reason is no one really cares.... this godforsaken country has no strategic importance nor is it on "our" side. It has a history of internal strife and since we are all busy celebrating the new year and have wish lists to draw up we are too busy to worry about a few thousand people living under pathetic conditions.
To Imran, USA: Solomon Islands not strategic? Who cares whether or not it is strategic. Not everything revolves around the USA. I think it is in everyone's interests to consider every human life "strategic" - it is this disregard for the wellbeing of other countries and cultures that is often getting the US in trouble around the world at this time.
To Zvi and Imran of USA
I am disgusted by these comments you have made - no wonder so many people are against the USA (I am not one of them). Do we care whether they support you or are 'with' you - surely it is enough that these people are human beings and deserve a life? What harm have they ever done to your country? I would rather them be helped than let them die on an island. I am sure they have been through this before though and it is being hyped up by the press as usual.
I agree with many of the comments stating that supplies, people, and equipment could be parachuted to the islands. If this were a rich country, this would have been on the second day. I was in Hurricane Hugo in Charlotte, NC USA with around 90 mph winds. I cannot even imagine 220 mph winds, and I am surprised ANY structures were still standing. Is this a fore-runner of storms to come?
Where is the international help and aid? Why are we waiting for Solomon authorities? International help should be sent immediately with the use of helicopters.
P Kuria, Kenyan
I think the response to this problem is pathetic.
I know the islands have no landing strip but has nobody ever heard of a helicopter? A helicopter could land on those islands within half a day with emergency supplies and assistance. Don't answer with the fact that a helicopter cannot carry enough fuel for the distance the Islands are away & to return. If a helicopter can get there it can wait a few days for a ship to arrive with fuel for it to get back. There are people there, help them.
If there are no airstrips can helicopters not be used? If not, can aid not be dropped from planes flying overhead as a stop gap measure until the ship can reach the islands.
I don't believe it can really be beyond the ken of man to get help to these people a great deal more quickly than the several days it is taking. It seems that we place more priority on getting good photographs of the damage than of actually helping people.
Roy Lomas, Spain
If flyovers are conducted then surely people can parachute in with a field radio to determine the extent of the damage and casualties and drop food and water. I cannot believe it has been 6 days without news as to whether there are injured or deceased.
I agree with the comments of Bernard Traylor of Australia. Food parcels were successfully dropped into Afghanistan, why can we not similarly help the folk of the Solomon Islands??
Shi Shien Lin, Taiwan
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