Risk Reduction

Communities all over the world have taught us that having the right knowledge, skills and attitudes to be prepared for, respond to, and recover from disasters can mean the difference between life and death and everyone can play a role in making that difference.

Building the resilience of communities and nations is fundamental to achieving disaster risk reduction and succeeding in attaining development that is sustainable.

Investing in disaster risk reduction is a precondition for developing sustainably in a changing climate and adapting to our environment.

Let us look at what is a risk? Risk is the combination of the probability of an event and its negative consequences. Risks are caused by hazards.

And what are hazards? A hazard is a dangerous phenomenon, substance, human activity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.

Risk can be mitigated by limiting exposure to hazards, by reducing vulnerabilities, or by building capacity. The formula also clearly shows us that there are no real ‘natural’ disasters. Even when the hazard is natural, whether or not it becomes a disaster (a serious disruption to the functioning of our community or society, to the extent that, even with all the resources we have, we are not able to cope) depends very much on human aspects — on how a society is built and prepared.

danger

Climate change magnifies disaster risk and increases the cost of disasters. Through changing temperatures, precipitation and sea levels, amongst other factors, global climate change is modifying hazard levels and exacerbating disaster risks in different sectors and countries. The number of weather-related hazards has tripled, and the number of people living in flood-prone areas and cyclone-exposed coastlines doubled. The trend is expected to continue to increase. As risks become further amplified by increasing climate variability and change, higher losses and impacts in the future are expected, which would certainly undermine current and future development efforts. We, in Seychelles are also feeling the effects of climate change and need to prepare and adapt to the changes at hand.

Infrastructure, such as road, power, communications and water networks, and health and primary education facilities, is a basic requirement of a competitive economy. When infrastructure fails during a disaster event, it can interrupt vital services and threatens the sustainability of large and small businesses. For example, power failures may disrupt water supply and transport during heavy storms or cyclones.

We have to be focusing on the sustainable management and protection as well as strengthening resilience, all this can contribute to reducing disaster risk and we can all look around our homes/businesses/place of work for any potential risks that we can prevent or if not at least mitigate and reduce its potential impact.

Everyone can play a role to protect themselves, their family, and their country!

Vice President Faure and Delegation Visit DRDM

As part of activities to commemorate the International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13th, Vice-President Danny Faure, accompanied by ministers Christian Lionnet and Peter Sinon, visited the head office of the Division of Risk and Disaster Management (DRDM).

An open day was organised as part of activities during the month of October to show the progress and development that DRDM has made during the past two years, portraying how concerned Seychelles is with disaster risk management preparations, prevention, response and recovery measures for the country.
DRDM Director General Paul Labaleine gave the guests a tour of the office situated at the Global Village Complex, Mont Fleuri, where members of staff introduced their specific fields of expertise, pointed out improvements that have taken place and area of needs.

It was an opportunity for the Vice-President and the ministers to see for themselves what DRDM has managed to accomplish, the staffing, equipment available and discuss the way forward as there is always room for improvement and lessons to be learned about disaster risk management.

Tsunami Simulation Exercise

Seychelles joined other countries in the Indian Ocean region in September to participate in the Indian Ocean Wave Exercise or IOWAVE14 to coincide with the tenth anniversary since the deadly tsunami struck the province of Banda Aceh in Indonesia on December 26th, 2004.

The decision was taken during the 9th session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, which was held in Jakarta, Indonesia on June 27th 2014.

It required that each member state implement its Tsunami Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).

The first day of the exercise on September 9th, which started at 4am and lasted until 7pm, involved a simulation of magnitude 9.1 earthquake south of Java, Indonesia which generated a tsunami travelling across the whole of the Indian Ocean. The first wave was likely to strike south Mahé, with a possibility of bouncing off to west and northwest of Mahé, forcing the closure of all schools from Pointe Larue up to the University of Seychelles as well as Anse Boileau.

After the Regional Tsunami Service Providers informed the National Warning Centre for Tsunami, the Seychelles Meteorological Office then informed DRDM of an earthquake and later confirmed the formation of a tidal wave.

An advisory was issued as a possibility of a tsunami was evaluated. All DRDM staff and emergency liaison officers were called in to activate their emergency procedures and communicate the information to their staff. Contact was made with companies such as the Public Utilities Corporation and the Port Authority to activate their SOP, while the public was put on alert.

The first scenario involved reported incidents of debris on road, with certain roads surfaces sustaining damage, people stuck in their houses had to be evacuated, teachers, students, farmers, hotel workers and guests in the vicinity were moved to higher ground.

The first responders tested equipment and staff with emergency protocols, while the Seychelles Meteorological Services tested the Tsunami SOP and the communication system that has been agreed between DRDM and the Met Office.

A second alert was raised the following day at 10am, this time with a simulated earthquake that occurred in the Makran Trench, south of Iran and Pakistan, threating the coast of Mahe and inner islands.

The Division of Risk and Disaster Management participated with all its partners testing the communication system in place, response strategies and the districts evacuation plans with the Districts Contingency Plans. Anse Boileau district was chosen for a practical evacuation test to see how agencies as well as the public reacted during an evacuation which showed where gaps existed and what needs to be improved on.

Following the tsunami simulation, an evaluation exercise was conducted locally and internationally to assess Seychelles’ and other Indian Ocean countries preparedness if ever they are faced with another tsunami. It was felt that generally, the two day exercise went well.

However, a series of recommendations were made, including that each health centre has its own evacuation plan coordinated with DRDM, further training needed for responders, that church bells and sirens are used to alert people to evacuate in an organised manner, among others.

DRDM pointed out that most of its key partners such as the Red Cross, Fire and Rescue services, etc have a well-designed plan for such scenarios and their staff have received relevant training over the past ten years but admitted that much still needs to be done in order to achieve 100 percent emergency preparedness and management in the country.

Seychelles felt the aftermath of the earthquake which struck the Banda Aceh Province in Indonesia in 2004, followed by a tsunami that reached the coasts of most countries bordering the Indian Ocean, including Seychelles.

3 Seychellois citizens were killed in the tsunami which left many people in anguish for several days as bridges and roads were severely damaged, homes and infrastructures along the coastal areas were flooded and properties such as boats were carried away by the waves.

Strategic Plan for Disaster Risk Management

The increasing frequency of disastrous incidents, coupled with a number of emerging threats and trends, are leaving more people in Seychelles vulnerable to the effects of disasters and inflicting greater damage and loss.

To address the issue within the country, DRDM has come up with a Strategic Plan and an Action Plan which will guide the works of the division to put them in line with international standards.
The Strategic Action Plan is developed from the 2014 Seychelles’ National Disaster Risk Management Policy and was approved by all stakeholders during a workshop held on November 13th at Savoy Hotel, in Beau Vallon.

It sets out the core, cross-cutting and priority aspects of the policy for implementation over a five year period from 2015 to 2019 and also shows how to protect the country and its citizens in the event of a disaster.

One of its main aims is to contribute towards the realisation of Seychelles’ sustainable development measures by strengthening national capacities to significantly reduce and mitigate disaster risk and build community resilience to disasters.

The plan empowers stakeholders and communities by actively involving them in risk awareness activities, risk assessment processes and the development of integrated hazard maps that will assist the country to build in better and safer locations.

Among the key points outlined in the Strategic Action Plan were focus on public education and awareness, understanding of the early warning system, warning levels, warning categories and their procedures, that mechanisms are established to indemnify and deploy volunteers, impact assessment that are to be undertaken rapidly and effectively and the role of the media in promoting a culture of disaster risk management awareness, disaster resilience actions and strong community involvement.

The Strategic Action Plan will be reviewed in the last six months of 2018 to assess progress in implementing and identifying issues for priority action in 2019.

The review and subsequent implementation in 2019 will form the basis for developing a new similar plan (2020 – 2024) in the last quarter of 2019.

Signing of Chapter Fourteen of the United Nations

Seychelles has signed Charter Fourteen of the United Nations which calls for an inclusive approach to disaster risk reduction response to older people, supporting the United Nations’ efforts to sensitise other governments across the world to also accept the pledge and put it in application.

Many other countries and organisations worldwide have signed the document in a show of support to improve the situation of the elderly around the world and for growing future generations of older people.

Designated Minister, Vincent Meriton who is also responsible for the ministry of Community Development, Social Affairs and Sports, signed the pledge on October 17th during a ceremony at the National Cultural Centre.

The event was to commemorate the International Day for Disaster and Risk Reduction which falls on October 13th.

‘Resilience is for Life’ is the theme chosen for 2014, focusing on older people.

The special advisor in the Ministry of Social Affairs, Community Development and Sports, Dan Frichot said the government recognises that disasters, especially natural ones, are generally directly linked to climate change and development. He mentioned President James Michel’s continuous emphasis on the subject at international forums to defend our country’s interest and that of other small island states.

“The International Day for Disaster and Risk Reduction is an opportunity to remind our population that climate change is real,” said Mr Frichot, citing the distress it has brought to our communities and the economic cost to Seychelles as a result.

Referring to some ongoing international crisis, the Director General of DRDM Mr Paul Labaleine, said these issues are telling us that we need to be vigilant and to have established structures and legal capabilities in place to protect the citizens, particularly the most vulnerable.
The ceremony was also attended by Vice President Danny Faure, showing the government of Seychelles’ commitment towards the Chapter Fourteen pledge.

School Preparedness

DRDM is working closely with public and private schools across the country to better prepare them to respond to disasters.

It is reviewing the disaster and risk contingency plan of the Ministry of Education and also to bring the disaster and risk emergency management teams of each school closer so that they can discuss and share ideas with one another.

A one-day workshop was organised in May by the division in collaboration with the Ministry of Education to introduce the ‘Schools Emergency Preparedness and Management’.

Facilitators from the Red Cross and the Seychelles Fire and Rescue Services Agency did an introduction on disaster and disaster management, reviewed the contingency plan, introduced the emergency team, and explained evacuation drills, emergency planning, among other related topics.

Delegates learned the difference between disaster and emergency and how they combine together.

Most of the thirty six public and private schools in Seychelles have an average population of over five hundred students each and lack the human resources capacity to cater for disasters on a large scale.

The ‘Schools Emergency Preparedness and Management’ programme was first introduced to the management levels of the schools. DRDM officials visited them to assess what they have in place and how best to assist and support them.

Drill exercises are conducted at school level at least three times a year. In addition some schools especially those located near the coastal areas, were also involved in national simulation exercises such as the Indian Ocean Wave simulation which took place in September 2014.

Testing Seychelles’ Ebola Plan

A table top exercise for a possible ebola outbreak was conducted on the 20th November to test the status of the ebola preparedness plan of the Ministry of Health and their capacity to manage a response in the event of an outbreak in Seychelles.

The one day session at Kempinski Hotel, Baie Lazare organized by the Department of Risk and Disaster Management (DRM), brought together representatives from the World Health Organisation, tourism-related agencies, the Red Cross, the community and local media.

Participants were presented with different scenarios illustrating possible detected cases and discussed how the different sections of the Ministry of Health will co-ordinate and implement emergency response activities to manage possible cases in the event that patients are diagnosed with the virus in line with its ebola preparedness response plan.

Local authorities got acquainted to the plan which provides the core capacity to prevent, detect, characterize and respond quickly, efficiently and in a coordinated manner to the threats in order to reduce mortality and morbidity.

The Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Jude Gedeon briefed attendees on the local preparedness plan. He mentioned all logistics and plans are already in place. These include a special committee that meets regularly once or twice a week; a communication plan being developed; six-month indicated budget; a standard operating procedure being developed, continuous and on-going training; stocking of materials, among other measures being taken.

The Communication and Information Officer at DRDM, Miss Regina Prosper said emergency medical services personnel, along with other agencies, have a vital role to play regarding  prevention and preparation measures in the event of any exposure to ebola and disseminating information to the general public on how to take appropriate actions.

“The importance of such exercise is to test plans, standard Operating Procedures, equipment, train personnel and help to improve response for any real event. It was an opportunity to also discuss how the ministry will co-ordinate with other agencies to share and disseminate information as well as protection of employees providing treatment and care to patients” she added.

Participants described the exercise as enlightening.

The Table Top Exercise which helped to identify a few gaps that must be worked on will be followed by a Functional Exercise and later a Full Scale Exercise.

Weathering Future Storms in the Seychelles

” The 2013 floods were a wakeup call for the entire nation, and perhaps a reminder similar to that of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami—that Seychelles is not safe from disasters. The Seychelles DaLA (Damage and Loss Assessment) report is proof of the Seychelles’ government’s resolve and commitment to ensure the safety and well-being of our people as well as the conservation of endemic flora, fauna and the country’s other limited natural resources. “

Rolph Payet

Minister of Environment and Energy, Seychelles

Results & Achievements

  • The government of Seychelles has developed short, medium, and long-term disaster resilient development initiatives which are expected to benefit 87,000 people, and rehabilitate and protect 500 kilometers of roadways from disasters.
  • A Damage and Loss Assessment laid the foundation for the creation of Sub-Saharan Africa’s first World Bank-financed disaster contingent credit line, which provides the government with $7 million in immediate liquidity in the aftermath of a large-scale catastrophe.
  • As a result of the extensive risk financing assessment, Seychelles recently joined the newly launched Southwest Indian Ocean Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative, a regional effort to increase fiscal capacity to respond to disasters.
  • The results of the Damage and Loss Assessment led to the development of multi-risk mapping and an extensive review of flood risk financing options to address the $30 million estimated cost of immediate reconstruction and recovery needs.

Following repeated cyclones and heavy flooding in the Indian Ocean islands of Seychelles, the government renewed its efforts to increase resilience to natural disasters. When Tropical Cyclone Felleng battered the multi-island country with heavy rain in January 2013, the government, with support from the World Bank and the Africa Caribbean Pacific-European Union Natural Disaster Risk Reduction (ACP-EU NDRR) Program, an initiative managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) worked to assess the damages and ensure that recovery efforts mitigate the effects of future natural hazards.

Seychelles, with its steep terrain and location in the Indian Ocean, is highly vulnerable to tropical cyclones, floods, storm surges, landslides and tsunamis. The risk is further exacerbated by climate change and sea-level rise. The 2013 cyclone caused flooding and landslides that led to damages and losses exceeding $8.4 million, or .77% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Seychelles’ infrastructure was the heaviest hit, with many roads completely washed away by the storm.

Approach

In the wake of the disaster, the government implemented a National Flood Task Force and, with support from the World Bank Africa Disaster Risk Management Group and GFDRR through the ACP-EU NDRR Program, conducted an innovative Damage Needs and Loss Assessment to evaluate the social, economic and environmental impacts of the storm, and quantify needs to increase resilience to future disasters. To ensure that post-disaster recovery is resilient:

  • The government, in coordination with United Nations (UN) agencies, the World Bank and the European Union (EU), conducted the assessment.
  • World Bank experts trained key ministries in affected sectors such as infrastructure and agriculture in the assessment methodology.
  • Using the results from the assessments, a disaster recovery framework on flood-risk management was proposed, providing vital recommendations on integrating flood risk management considerations at the institutional, investment and policy levels.
  • The implementation of risk transfer and insurance mechanisms was recommended, sparking the launch of a similar, region-wide initiative.

Lessons Learned

Lack of compliance to building regulations increased impact of the disaster. The assessment revealed that lack of compliance and lightly enforced regulations, especially in the areas of construction and land use planning contributed to losses. Local authorities are now working to better enforce building regulations and zonal planning, and disaster-prone zones have been identified.

Working together is essential to building back better. At the time of the disaster, no standardized communication system for stakeholders was in place. It was evident that long-term disaster resilient development for disaster-prone countries can only be achieved when stakeholders collaborate in a joint effort. The government has been strengthening its partnerships with all levels of society, from the private sector to non-profit as evidenced by the implementation of the assessment, so that a comprehensive framework can be effectively implemented.

Next Steps

The assessment provided a clear understanding of damages, needs and losses within the impacted sectors. This laid the groundwork for immediate and long-term recovery and reconstruction efforts needed to withstand the negative impacts from future disasters. Medium-term and long-term goals were also established and included the relocation of key public buildings to higher ground, the preparation of an integrated national disaster risk management plan, the revision of the flood management legal framework and the development of new risk-based building codes.

History of major disasters in Seychelles

Due to its geographical position and geology, the Seychelles is less exposed to major natural disaster than most of the neighbour countries such as Mauritius, La Réunion, Comoros, Madagascar or the countries on African continent.

A thorough investigation on archives concerning impact and victims of natural disasters allowed us to record 89 significant events, from 1862 up to now, that were classified into the following different categories:

Event                                                                                                Number

tsunami                                                                                                   2

 storm / strong winds / cyclone                                                        19

drought                                                                                                   6

heavy rainfall                                                                                        21

flood (due to heavy rainfall)                                                              14

landslide / rock fall / mud flow (due to heavy rainfall)               14

forest fire                                                                                                13

In terms of impact (both human and economic), a rough classification of major events can be as follow (in chronological order):

  • 12 oct, 1862: the “great Avalasse .
  • 31st August – 1st September 1985: severe floods on the 3 main islands, landslide at St. Louis, > 1milllion SCR damages.
  • 17-23 May 1990 : Cyclone Ikonjo hits Desroches island – 1,500,000 USD damages (source: The socio- economic Impact of Tropical Cyclone Ikonjo over the Seychelles, W. Agricole);
  • 12-17 August 1997: the ENSO rainfall event – 1,700,000 USD damages (source: CRED database);
  • 06-07 September 2002: Storm over Praslin island.
  • December 2004: the great Indian Ocean tsunami – 30,000,000 USD damages (source: CRED database).
  • December 2006: Cyclone Bondo hits Providence and Farqhuar islands

Other events are printed in the collective memory of Seychelles, such as the forest fire in 1990 on Praslin island which destroyed a part of the unique forest of coco de mer trees in the world. Actually, this is a relatively low record of disasters but as one can see, the last 30 years are concentrating almost all the most important events. More than 90% of the events recorded in the database occurred during the last 30 years.

This apparent concentration of disasters on the last three decades may be explained by the absence of accessible systematic record before the independence in national archives of Seychelles. This forbids a clear diagnosis on the reasons of the apparent concentration of disasters on the last 30 years. It is thus impossible to sustain the hypothesis of an increase of disasters due to the climatic change and the associated rise of global mean temperatures and changes in precipitation and wind velocities. An investigation in British colonial archive could probably help in resolving this question.

In term of human victims, the investigation indicates that the country has a very low record of victims directly caused by natural disasters (see table 2). The deadliest disaster since the Island started to be inhabited appears to be the great “Avalasse” – a creole word similar to the French word “Avalanche”- which occurred in 1862.

 

Seychelles avoided tsunami disaster

 

afrol News, 3 January Unlike Somalia and southern Asia, Kenya and Seychelles avoided large numbers of casualties due to the tsunami that hit the two coastal nations with a devastating power on 26 December. Tourists and nationals were warned in advance despite the lack of an early warning system. One dead fisherman is mourned in each country.

A wall of water as high a four metres hit the Seychelles archipelago as a result of the earthquake close to Indonesia, some 5000 kilometres away. The devastations on the island of Mahé, the most populated in Seychelles, are enormous. Victoria, the capital, was flooded, residential areas were put to ruins, roads collapsed and hotels were badly damaged on all the islands. Images resemble those of Sri Lanka and Thailand, although in a lesser scale.

Yet, Seychelles only mourns the life of one fisherman. Already this weekend, Seychellois Vice-President Joseph Belmont issued a statement, reassuring European tour operators that Seychelles is “safe and sound” for tourists. “All hotels except for the three on Praslin are fully operational; all inter-island and international flights are running on schedule, and tourists are going about their holiday in a very normal way.” Vice-President Belmont emphasised.

The Kenya Tourist Board was even faster in reassuring foreign tourists of the safety of the Kenyan coast. Already on 28 December, Kenyan authorities had been in contact with hoteliers and tour operators all along the coast. They “all confirm that everything is back to normal with no damage to the resorts. No resorts have been adversely affected in any way from this incident. Hotel guests are swimming and snorkelling and fishing boats are operating as usual,” a statement said.

Kenya’s main coastal city, Mombasa, was indeed ravaged by the tsunami. Also the coastal resorts north and south of the metropolis, such as Malindi, were badly hurt by the large wave. In neighbouring Somalia, the tsunami hit just slightly stronger, killing at least 200 persons and destructing the homes of an estimated 50,000. Only one Kenyan lost his life to the wave.

The Indian Ocean, as contrasted to the Pacific, does not have a tsunami early warning system. The loss of an estimated 135,000 lives, mostly in south-eastern Asia, is mostly blamed on this lack of a warning system. Expect for Somalia, however, most of Africa’s Indian Ocean coast escaped disaster by an improvised emergency warning.

The Indonesian earthquake had been registered by seismologists all around the world, even causing the US tsunami warning centre in Hawaii – coordinating Pacific alerts – to prepare for a killer wave on the British Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, where a US naval base resides. Other warnings, to authorities in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand, went out too late or were not taken seriously by national authorities.

As the fist signs of disaster in Asia were becoming clear, the US seismologists rapidly understood that the tsunami was heading towards the African coast. The American embassies in Mauritius and Madagascar were warned, which again passed the alert to national authorities around the region. Seychelles took an early lead, also confirming to Kenyan authorities that they indeed could expect a devastating wave.

No emergency plans however exist in these countries on how to handle a tsunami – the region almost never experiences such natural disasters. In Seychelles, the National Disaster Committee immediately set up a base at the Police Command Centre in Victoria to monitor what was happening. It instructed the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation to send out alerts to warn members of the public.

According to Seychellois President James Michel, these broadcasted alerts and evacuation massages to hotels, port authorities and fishing vessels had spared “major casualties” in Seychelles. However, there “had been material damage to properties,” and reconstruction works would be costly and far reaching.

Kenya and Tanzania were the last two countries to be hit by the tsunami and authorities could verify the devastating potential of the killer wave by looking at the experience in other countries. No infrastructure however existed to warn citizens and the many tourists along the coast.

An emergency plan – designed for minor incidents such as oil spills – was immediately put into action by the Nairobi Foreign Ministry, which had been in contact with the US Embassy and Seychellois authorities. The Kenyan Port Authority and the navy were called to implement the plan. National media were quick to broadcast alerts and all commercial vessels along the Kenyan coast were warned.

The police were ordered to evacuate beaches and to advise artisanal fishing boats without radio communication. Where tourists and locals did not take the warning seriously, armed riot police removed people from the beach. Groups of tourists were driven several kilometres inland.

– By the afternoon of 26 December, all hotels on the Kenyan coast had been alerted and had taken the necessary action to secure their facilities and ensure the safety of their guests, according to the Kenya Tourist Board. “All tourists at Kenyan coastal resorts are safe and unhurt. Damage from the incident was limited to local fishing boats, mainly around Malindi.”

The impressive emergency operations in Seychelles and Kenya probably saved the lives of hundreds of national citizens and tourists. However, large-scale material damages could not be avoided. In Kenya, damages are concentrated on poor fishing communities, which have seen their livelihood destructed.

In Seychelles, damage to the infrastructure was more substantial and Michel already on Thursday officially appealed for international aid. “The tidal surges destroyed bridges and sunk boats off the coasts,” according to the government. Further, they “caused flooding in Victoria – halting activities at both the commercial and fishing ports – as well as in residential areas.”

– The next step is to start work as soon as possible to repair damages and bring lives back to normal, President Michel told his citizens. While appealing for international aid, Seychelles had however also experienced a wave of national solidarity. A National Emergency Disaster Fund has been set up in partnership with the private sector. President Michel hailed locals for donating money and clothes and for sheltering affected tourists.