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Kiribati fears for its future

Thursday 19 March 2015 | Published in Regional


TARAWA – The President of Kiribati says he fears his country won’t be able to carry the cost of the damage caused by natural disasters.

The low-lying island nation has been damaged by the storm generated by Cyclone Pam as well as by spring tides over the last month which have been worse than in past years.

Speaking to international leaders at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan, President Anote Tong says his country faces economic, social, and cultural costs as a result of the storms.

Tong says Kiribati is seeing a shift in weather patterns as a result of global warming and says it’s a grave concern for his people.

Appealing to the international community he says it is crucial to enter into partnerships with developed parties as Kiribati continues to rely on support to reduce disaster risk.

Further spring tides are due for Kiribati this week and look set to continue until Sunday.

The Kiribati Red Cross is struggling to deal with residents in the southern island of Tamana who are homeless after Cyclone Pam.

Its Secretary-General Meaua Tooki says aid has yet to reach the islands but reports have come in of severe damage to dozens of buildings.

“There were 65 households completely destroyed. Then there were 107 houses damaged as well. The total population on this island, the recent count, 857.”

Tooki says there has also been a call for food and water but donated goods have been hard to come by.

She says the government is sending water tanks to catch rain water this week.

While there has been a lot of talk about the future of Kiribati, little has been done on the ground to increase the resilience of infrastructure and the community to these events in the immediate future, the Huffington Post reports.

There is little public infrastructure that is not at risk from coastal hazards on Kiribati, and most of the population live in slum-like conditions, with a population density comparable to Hong Kong or New York.

It’s clear that there is incredible urgency to supply just basic needs and sanitation for residents in South Tarawa.

Meanwhile, urgent aid and support is required to rebuild more effective seawalls, rebuild the hospital and other infrastructure on raised platforms, and to relocate parts of the population who are living on the most marginal land to more stable land.