Maldivian government authorities are providing emergency services and relief funds to island communities battered by three weeks of “extreme weather”.
The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) issued a statement today (May 15) urging island and atoll councils to report any damage caused by the “harsh weather” as soon as possible.
President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik met with officials from the Maldives Police Service, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), the NDMC, and other high-ranking government officials yesterday (May 14) to discuss damages sustained and relief counter measures being taken nationwide.
Waheed provided assurances that government authorities will collaborate with island communities to provide “all the assistance and support needed”. Thus, it was decided state funds will be provided to assist “those islands with maximum damage” through the Ministry of Finance and Treasury’s contingency budget.
State funds will not be released directly to NDMC, instead the Finance Ministry will maintain control of money allocated for relief efforts and “coordinate bills” with the centre, NDMC Project Director Hisan Hassan told Minivan News today.
The exact amount of emergency relief funds will be determined today, Hassan added.
Meanwhile, the MNDF and police have issued precautionary warnings to the public due to the severe weather conditions.
The Coast Guard issued a request yesterday that “all travelers to take necessary precautionary measures before setting on their journeys due to the severe weather with heavy rain and thunderstorms… particularly in the northern and southern regions of the Maldives.”
They recommended travelers test communications sets and obtain updated weather forecasts before embarking on any journeys.
The Coast Guard further stated that average wind speeds of 15-25 miles per hour (mph) in the southern atolls and 7-17 mph are expected in the northern atolls, while wind gusts during thunderstorms will reach 40-50 mph.
Additionally, the police issued an SMS bulletin today also warning the public to “take precautionary measures due to the bad weather”.
A “white bulletin” was also issued by the Maldives Meteorological Service (MET) today, warning that the central atolls can expect average winds speeds of 23-30 mph.
Food shortages and flooding
Thus far damage assessment reports have been submitted by 12 islands from seven atolls – Shaviyani, Meemu, Dhaalu, Thaa, Laamu, Fuvahmulah, and Addu City – representing regions from the far north to the far south of the Maldives, the NDMC told Minivan News today.
Hassan explained that other islands have reported storm-related damage directly to the media or have spoken with the NDMC, but have yet to official report these issues to the centre.
Flooding due to three weeks of severe weather and heavy rain has damaged households, sewerage systems, as well as caused extensive agricultural destruction, according to Hassan.
Food shortages on some islands have resulted from agricultural damage and the disruption of transportation and supply networks due to bad weather.
“All islands import food from Male’, however the seas have been so rough [supply] boats are still in Male’ and unable to reach the islands,” Hassan explained. “Yesterday the State Trading Organisation (STO) announced the they will try to send [food supplies] somehow.”
STO is not providing free food-stuffs to islands, rather they are seeking ways to reach the islands so community shops can restock. Normally, supply boats travel between the atolls at least twice a week, according to Hassan.
“Some small islands’ [residents] are a little afraid to travel to a nearby island [to resupply] because travel is difficult,” he said.
Hassan emphasised that food shortages have not reached “emergency situation” levels.
“For the time being there is no emergency. If an island completely runs out of food, the MNDF is always on board [collaborating] with STO and NDMC, and will send vessels,” said Hassan.
The MNDF and police will deploy and provide first response emergency services, if necessary, he added.
“The MNDF is also assisting with flood relief. They take fire fighting equipment to islands and help pump water,” said Hassan.
“Houses are flooding because they are not built on high platforms, so with one or one and a half feet of flooding, water will rush into homes,” he added.
Hassan emphasised the need for people to “take responsibility” and precautionary measures to ensure their safety in the bad weather conditions.
“They should not wait until flood waters reach knee-high levels and require the MNDF to provide assistance,” Hassan said.
“People should move [their] belongings to higher ground, get rid of old trees and branches, clean their roofs, and collect rainwater in tanks. Also, sandbags should be used to minimise further flooding,” he added.
Ensuring roofs and houses are secure is also essential given the strong winds that have accompanied the recent severe storms.
The NDMC is coordinating with the relevant ministry’s to ensure damages are evaluated and addressed promptly.