We must be prepared

Fred Wesley | Thursday, August 10, 2017
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama makes no bones about the need for us to be prepared for the next big one.
Fred Wesley. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU
Fred Wesley. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

We have to prepare for storms that are stronger than Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, he said this week.

He made the comment while addressing students, faculty and community members of two schools in Ba on Tuesday.

The schools were rehabilitated after the Category 5 storm.

Koronubu Sangam School was rebuilt with funding of more than $240,000 from the Japanese Government and Vatulaulau Sanatan Dharm School was rebuilt at a cost of $989,000 by the Government.

Experts, Mr Bainimarama said, had already warned us that storms like STC Winston "are only going to become more frequent and more severe due to the catastrophic effects of climate change".

The reality, he said, was that "there is considerable work to be done to prepare ourselves for what is to come".

He said 90 per cent of schools were built with no structurally approved plans leaving our students vulnerable to climate-related catastrophe.

"We can't afford to build to that standard because to do so would take us on a costly cycle of rebuilding year after year and put the lives of our students at risk. I am not prepared to let that happen," he said.

For people who raised the issue of the length of time it has taken for the rebuilding phase, he said, naysayers failed to understand the complexity of the issue.

"We are building schools that will stand for generations, homes that can be depended on to keep our people sheltered and infrastructure that can be relied upon in times of crisis," he said.

Yesterday, he confirmed 20 schools destroyed or severely damaged by STC Winston have been rebuilt with the capacity to withstand Category 6 force winds.

If you haven't got the message yet, then it pays to be prepared.

We must translate that show of confidence to our own homes.

STC Winston was frightening.

The impact of the Category 5 mega-storm was evident everywhere along the path of the cyclone, along the upper edges of Viti Levu, the bottom half of Vanua Levu, Taveuni, the Lomaiviti Group, Yasawas and Eastern Lau.

In its wake, some villages were wiped off, some were missing homes and people were forced to slowly pick up the pieces. People died and many were injured.

We may be resilient people, but Winston reminded us that we live in a country open to cyclones and the wrath of mother-nature.

The PM is right, we must be prepared.

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