Severe flooding caused by heavy rainfall on Monday has forced several residents of Hoarafushi in Haa Alif atoll to evacuate their homes after flood waters damaged furniture and electrical wiring in 95 households.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Hoarafushi Island Council Chair Ahmed Mauroof said 95 households were flooded, affecting an “estimated 600 people.”
“The cost of the damage caused by flooding is expected to rise to millions,” Mauroof said, explaining that furniture and electronic equipment were damaged in the affected households.
While some families have since returned to their homes, Mauroof said the island council has provided housing and food for a number of islanders at a public building while others have found shelter with relatives.
The flood waters have now receded or been pumped out by the joint efforts of the island council, the island’s youth, police, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), officials of the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) and staff from the nearby Manafaru resort, Mauroof said.
The joint efforts included putting up sandbags, moving furniture and other items to safe locations and pumping water from clogged roads, police said in a press release yesterday.
Heavy rains that started in the late afternoon on Monday caused flooding of up to five feet, according to police. Thick torrential rains that started around 4:30pm on Monday reportedly lasted non-stop until dawn on Tuesday.
The MNDF Northern Area Command meanwhile launched efforts in collaboration with island councils on Monday to pump water from the affected northern islands, including Haa Alif Baarah and Haa Dhaal Hanimadhoo in addition to Hoarafushi.
Hoarafushi, one the of the northernmost islands in the Maldives, has a population of over 2,000 people.
In addition to households, Mauroof said flooding also caused damage to the island’s health centre.
“The flood water damaged the computer system and some documents there as well as medical equipment,” the councillor said, adding that electric wiring in “the very old building” was also damaged.
Moreover, as there was no sewerage system in the island, “the septic tanks, owned by the people of the island, burst, overflowed and spread waste into the island.”
Mauroof said he received information today that children and adults were being treated at the health centre for diarrhoea.
The island’s youth together with the island council have formed a task force to coordinate relief efforts and seek assistance, Mauroof said, adding that he was currently in Male’ with a number of youth from the island to seek donations.
The deputy chair of the island council was coordinating efforts back at Hoarafushi, he explained.
“We formed the task force because our aim is to recover from this as quickly as possible,” the council chair said.
As the only usable water in the island at the moment was rainwater stored in tanks – privately owned wells were also contaminated – Mauroof said the task force in Male’ was working with the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) to send water supplies to Hoarafushi.
On the efforts to seek financial assistance, Mauroof said business magnate and Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim has donated MVR 250,000 while ‘Champa’ Mohamed Moosa has pledged the same amount on behalf of private broadcaster DhiTV and its sister network DhiFM.
Other wealthy individuals in Male’ have pledged financial assistance, he added.
Mauroof said he believed that assistance from “affluent persons” was necessary as it was “unlikely” that the island could recover from the flooding solely through the efforts of the council and central government in Male’.
Hoarafushi youth have meanwhile made appeals on social media for assistance. Mauroof said the task force planned to launch a hotline and a relief fund later today.
President Waheed visits Hoarafushi
President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik meanwhile arrived in Hoarafushi this morning and pledged government assistance to the families affected by flooding.
State broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) reported that two people were being treated at the health centre for diarrhoea.
A TVM reporter at Hoarafushi explained that canals have been dug out on two locations of the island to draw flood waters out to the sea.
According to TVM, the DMC has set up an ’emergency working group’ with the MNDF, Maldivian Red Crescent and the Local Government Authority to assess damage caused by flooding and coordinate relief efforts.
Emergency Response Officer Mohamed Didi said that arrangements have been made with the State Trading Organisation (STO) to provide foodstuff to the affected islands, which also included two islands in Haa Dhaal Atoll.
“At 3:00pm today, an STO boat will leave Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi for Haa Alif Hoarafushi with 90 bags of rice, flour and sugar,” Didi told the state broadcaster.
Moreover, a second STO boat would leave from Male’ at 6:00pm with medicine, water supplies, pillows and mattresses, the DMC official said.
Meanwhile, in a statement today, former President Mohamed Nasheed noted “with happiness, the good example and Islamic principle showed by citizens to provide assistance to those in need at this time.”
In addition to the northernmost islands, the former president’s statement noted that severe weather has caused damage in the Hulhudhoo and Feydhoo wards of Addu City as well as Fuvahmulah in the south.
The Department of Meteorology yesterday warned of “rough seas, heavy rain and strong winds for the next two days.” The current weather conditions were believed to be linked to low pressure left by a cyclone currently active in the Bay of Bengal.
The BCC reported today that cyclone Nilam was expected to make landfall on the Tamil Nadu state of India.
Meanwhile, in an announcement yesterday, the MNDF coastguard urged travellers to take extra precautionary measures and stay updated on weather conditions.
The coastguard also advised against non-essential travel as heavy rains and rough seas were forecast for the next 24 hours.