Saturday 22 May 2010

Tuvalu responds well to tsunami alert

Ms. Makereta Komai, Editor of PACNEWS was successful in her application for the SPREP Tuvalu Media Grant, the offer of a partnership to send Pacific reporters to Tuvalu to help document the inaugural Tuvalu King Tide Festival in February.  Below is a story from Ms. Komai

28 February 2010, Funafuti - Tuvalu’s national disaster response committee was activated early Sunday morning immediately after the first tsunami warning was received from the U.S tsunami warning centre in Honolulu.
The tiny island nation of about 10,000 population woke up to warnings of a possible tidal wave following an 8.8 earthquake in Chile in South America, which generated 9.9 metres of waves.
Tuvalu was among a number of small islands in the Pacific put on tsunami alert.
The Hawaiian weather forecasting centre predicted that tidal waves could be expected around mid morning, from 10-12 pm forcing people to move their families to higher ground.
The Ekalesia o Tuvalu cancelled all its scheduled church service to allow families to move to safety.
When PACNEWS visited the national hospital, the doctor in charge, Dr Stephen Homasi was calm as he directed patients and people to the top floor of the hospital. 

“We inform the patients in the calmest way of the tsunami and explained to them that we need to move them upstairs.
We moved our 23 patients to the conference room and families from surrounding areas. The hospital is a designated evacuation centre, said Dr Homasi.
He told PACNEWS he was pleased with the quick turn-around time for people to mobilise and move to designated higher grounds.
“We had families coming with their water and food and other essential belongings, said Dr Homasi.
The island’s lone police vehicle fitted with a loud speaker warned people of the impending huge waves, warning people to move any higher building for their safety.
Both the police and navy and government agencies including Red Cross was mobilised to assist with moving families.

Most families with young children were moved to the Taiwanese built two storey government and the Queen Mary hospital.
“It’s good to see that people have now taken heed of our warning and taken precautions. This is probably because people have seen the devastation in Samoa last year, said a Tuvaluan police officer that did not want to be named.
The tsunami alert comes on the day Tuvalu expects its highest king tide. The local weather office predicts its highest king tide for this year will on Sunday afternoon, around 5pm, peaking at 3.3 metres.
For the first time, the island has organised a King Tide Festival to promote tourism and create awareness of the impact of climate change on the tiny atoll island

Tuvalu sea level rising by 5mm a year, according to scientific analysis

Ms. Makereta Komai, Editor of PACNEWS was successful in her application for the SPREP Tuvalu Media Grant, the offer of a partnership to send Pacific reporters to Tuvalu to help document the inaugural Tuvalu King Tide Festival in February. Below is a story from Ms. Komai

28 February 2010 Funafuti - Tide gauges monitoring sea level rise in Tuvalu is beginning to show an average peak of 5millimetre rise in sea level per year.  This peak has been consistent now for a number of years, which proves that the sea level is rising every year. 

“It does not take into account natural phenomenon like floods, storm surges and cyclones which could add to the current average that we have. If that is taken into account, then it becomes worrisome, said Tauala Katea, the scientific officer with the Tuvalu Meteorological Office.

“It appears to be averaging 5mm per year. Our data dates back 16 years ago. Just recently we have been recording a consistent 5 millimetre.  If we use that per year, it means that since 1993, sea level rise has gone up by 8 centimetres, which is a huge increase.  That has also brought about the king tides we’ve experienced since 2000. Most of our low lying areas have flooded causing saltwater intrusion affecting agriculture.  The faipulaka (garden) becomes salty. The wells are no longer fresh water and cannot be used for drinking and bathing."

If the scientific predictions are on target, then by 2050, seal level rise would peak at 30 centimetres and over a metre in the next 50 years.  While this data is collated by the Australian Meteorology, there is need for a few more years of scientific monitoring to prove its analysis.

“Our data collection has been going on now for 16 years. We need at least 20 years of tide readings to provide a more relevant trend.  We still need more data so not confuse or make people panic, said Katea.

Tuvalu should experience its peak king tide this year on Sunday 28 February.

“We are forecasting 3.3 metres this year, lower that 3.48 metres in 2006, when we experienced our highest king tide."

Japanese photographer’s crusade to save Tuvalu

Ms. Makereta Komai, Editor of PACNEWS was successful in her application for the SPREP Tuvalu Media Grant, the offer of a partnership to send Pacific reporters to Tuvalu to help document the inaugural Tuvalu King Tide Festival in February.  Below is a story from Ms. Komai
Tuvalu, 26 February, 2010 - 42 year old Shuuichi Endou, an architect of Taitoku in Tokyo, Japan loves the simple life on the 26 kilometre island archipelago of Tuvalu. Since his first visit in 1998, he has fallen in love with the people, its traditions and culture, and its simple communal living.
That is why he quit his job as an architect to pursue a global campaign to bring the plight of the 10,000 population of Tuvalu to the international fora.
After graduating from the Osaka University of Arts, he landed himself a job with Taisei Company, one of Japan’s prominent general contracted. He wanted to make environmentally friendly buildings.  That dream was short-lived when he heard about Tuvalu’s fate as one of the first small island state that might disappear due to climate change and sea level rise.
His love affair with Tuvalu started there!
That led him to Funafuti to set up a non-profit organisation, Tuvalu Overview. The organisation lobbies for global recognition of the urgency of time for island nation and her people.  
Endou’s latest ambitious project is to photograph 10,000 of the island nation’s population and use it to urge the world to halt climate change.
“In 2007, I started this project. So far, I have collected 1,000 photos and interviews from the two islands of Nukulaelae and Niutao.  I want to send this message to the world using Tuvaluan faces explaining their aspirations for the future. For me, it’s important that I document the sinking people’s dreams".
His other major plan is to take the 10,000 photos and interviews for an exhibition at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
“I plan to put all 10,000 faces on the wall of the UN building with messages from the people of Tuvalu pleading with the world to hear their concerns.  “Its theme will be Build the Future with 10,000 Tuvaluans – Build the Future for Humanity.  It’s not only Tuvalu but all human beings will be affected by climate change and rising sea level in the future", said Endou.
This week, as Tuvalu celebrates its first ever King Tide Festival, Endou was back in Funafuti to follow up on his global campaign plans.  These are some of the dreams he’s gathered so far:
  • 10 year old Nanoua Atabi, a primary school student said she has studied climate change at school but she is not scared because she can swim.
  • Tautele Kaea, a 34 year old fisherman said, “I’ve heard about sea level rise but it’s up to God. There is nothing that humans can do.”
  • Fakalesia Pelesala, 64 year old of Niutao said she has seen the destruction of a big wave surge in 1993. Although she doesn’t know much about climate change, she wants the world to assist Tuvalu.
  • A young mother, Pua Tetoa said she is scared of the waves and pleads with developed nations to think of her people.
  • Tuvalu’s first Prime Minister, Toaripi Lauti, now 78 years old said, “I really love my Tuvaluan traditional lifestyle which has enabled us to live with blessings of nature. However, I want to get a safe place for my people and my family.”
Asked when he will complete his documentation of the rest of Tuvalu’s 9,000 population, Endou said he will be back in Tuvalu in July this year to photograph and record the views of people on the island of Nukufetau.  The outlying island of Nukufetau has a population of 800.
“The people have been very co-operative. I have to visit all the homes to photograph and interview all members of the family. I even take pictures of babies – these are the future generation of Tuvalu.
Another local NGO that’s prominent globally on the fight for Tuvalu’s cause is Alofa Tuvalu. It was born in 2005 to save the island nation from being the first to be submerged due to climate change.Its focus is to help Tuvaluans survive as a nation, and if possible allow its people to remain on their ancestral land

Tuvalu Special - King Tides Festival - Tagata Pasifika

Tagata Pasifika attended the King Tides Festival in February this year, they were successful with their application for the Tuvalu Media Grant, an opportunity for a partnership with SPREP.  Marama Papau of Tagata Pasifika visited Tuvalu during the inaugural festival.
Tuvalu Special, King Tides Festival Pt 1 leads you to Part 1 of the Tuvalu Special on Tagata Pasifika
Tuvalu Special, King Tides Festival Pt 2 leads you to Part 2 of the Tuvalu Special on Tagata Pasifika
Tuvalu Special, King Tides Festival Pt 3 leads you to Part 3 of the Tuvalu Special on Tagata Pasifika