Extreme weather compels emergency relief from Maldives’ government

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.


Storm surge floods large areas of Fuvahmulah island

A storm surge in the Maldives has caused a large area of Fuvahmulah Island to flood.

Three regions of the island have areas larger than 20 feet flooded, while farmland and some freshwater wells have been affected by salt water, according to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and local media.

The extent of the damage caused to farmlands flooded by salt water last night (May 12) is still being assessed, President of Fuvahmulah Atoll Council Ali Fazad told local media. He added that the flooded farmlands are located on the island’s eastern “bushy edge”.

MNDF officers will be on alert given that more flooding is expected in Fuvahmulah during high tide later tonight.

According to the Maldives Meteorological Service (MET Office), no island other than Fuvahmulah as reported flooding, however the southern atolls can expect more heavy rain and strong winds, with gusts up to 45 miles per hour.

Earlier this week (May 9), Fuvahmulah suffered the most storm damage nationwide due to severe storms, harsh wind and rain, blowing off roofs and felling trees, according to Minister of State for Defence and National Security and head of the National Disaster Management Center (NDMC), Ahmed Mohamed.


Strong storms and rough seas cause nationwide damage

Stormy weather conditions – heavy rain, harsh winds, and rough seas – over the past week have caused damage to islands throughout the Maldives.

In the south the island of Fuvahmulah has suffered the most damage, said Minister of State for Defence and National Security and head of the National Disaster Management Center (NDMC), Ahmed Mohamed.

“The harsh winds that hit Fuvahmulah yesterday afternoon blew off roofs. A large coconut tree had fallen on top of house and a large tree had fallen on top of the council office. There is additional damages as well. An estimate of damages is now being assessed,” Mohamed said.

He also noted that heavy rains have led to a food shortage, flooding and property damage on Thinadhoo Island in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.

“In Thinadhoo, some of the roofs of houses were blown off due to strong winds. Heavy rain had caused flooding throughout the island. The flood water had seeped into the houses damaging people’s property. We are also receiving reports that they are short of food,” said Mohamed.

Meanwhile, in the north of the country, Rashgetheemu Island in Raa Atoll suffered damage from a lightning storm on April 27 which left all electronic systems within the Island Office “useless”, equipment inside the island’s health centre and power house damaged. Additionally, some electronic devices in private homes were harmed, as well as the island’s banana plantations, Island Council Vice President Ali Hameed told local media today (May 9).

The Maldives Meteorological Service has forecasted thunderstorms throughout the country, concentrated in the central and south, over the next 24 hours, with rough seas, and strong winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour. They have also issued warnings about flooding due to storm surge and tidal waves, particularly during high tide.


Maldives expects flooding due to storm surges

The Maldives Meteorological Service (MET) has warned that high storm surges due to current poor weather conditions could cause flooding nationwide, reports local media.

Flooding due to storm surges during high tides, as well as heavy rain accompanied by strong wind and thunder, can be expected throughout the atolls, said a MET weather forecaster, according to local media.

“Flooding has not yet been reported from any region, but it can be expected in this bad weather,” he said.

The northern and central atolls can expect the worst weather, however heavy rain, thunder and rough seas will likely be experienced in all regions.


Heavy rain damages agriculture fields in three atolls

Agriculture fields in Haa Alif Baarah, Gaaf Alif Nilandhoo and all islands of Laamu Atoll have been damaged in the heavy rainfall experienced across the country.

Local daily Haveeru reported today that 90 percent of farmland in Laamu Atoll was “destroyed” by the rain.

Laamu Atoll Council Chair Mohamed Rasheed told the newspaper that 80 percent of farmers in the atoll would cease to have a source of income. Farmers in the southern atoll earn a monthly average income of between MVR20,000 to MVR30,000, Rasheed said.

He added that the rain also damaged some homes, including 29 households in Fonadhoo.

Of the 11 inhabited islands in Laamu atoll, only three reported no damages, Rasheed said.

Moreover, as a result of damage to a sewerage pump in the island of Gan, waste was spreading into the island from two junctions.

The rains that started on Monday evening lasted non-stop until Tuesday night, he said.

Meanwhile, Nilandhoo Councillor Asif Mohamed told Sun Online that 280 fields in the island have been completely destroyed.

Heavy rains meanwhile flooded agriculture fields in Haa Alif Baarah.

Baarah Councillor Hussain Fahmy told Haveeru that floodwaters have not receded from the farmlands as of this afternoon. Heavy rains continued to fall last night, he said.

Damage to wooden stoves was also causing difficulties for islanders, the councilor added.


Heavy rains flood Lhaviyani Atoll

Heavy rains have caused flooding on Naifaru and Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani Atoll, damaging some houses.

According to councils from both islands, many roads are flooded while houses and property have been damaged by the rain, which began last night.

The rain continued until 6:30 am today.

Members of the police and defense forces, as well as council members and local residents are working to drain certain areas, Haveeru reports.


MNDF warns seafarers to be cautious of bad weather

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has warned that the seas of the Maldives will be rough with heavy showers and strong winds predicted, and has warned seafarers to be aware of the bad weather and not to overload any boats.

In a press release issued the MNDF said that the Maldives will experience rough weather for the next 24 hours, including strong winds of up to 40-50 miles per hour throughout the country.

‘’We appeal to seafarers to be cautious of the bad weather condition and to check the weather forecast before setting off sail,’’ the MNDF said in the press release. ‘’Also, make sure life jackets are readily reachable for the passengers and that all vessels contain water pumps.’’

MNDF also requested boat captains to keep to the sea safety regulations while travelling by sea.

Director General of National Meteorology Centre Ahmed Shareef told Minivan News that no incidents were so far reported to the centre.

‘’No one has officially reported us any incidents that occurred due to bad weather, but I have seen media reports of an incident occurred in Thulusdhoo in Kaafu Atoll,’’ Shareef said. ‘’I read in that the island has flooded due to swells.’’

Shareef said the Maldives was currently experiencing bad weather due to North West Monsoon.

‘’Weather forecast show that seas will be rough and strong winds will be experienced with lots of rain until Thursday,’’ he said adding that the worst weather will be focused in the central area of the Maldives.

He also noted that swells and rough sea with strong winds were not uncommon for this time of year.