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.

 

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