Fears of ‘mass starvation’ in Solomon Islands’ Tikopia after Cyclone Lola | RNZ News

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Cyclone damage in Tikopia.
Photo: Scott Nguyen / supplied

Cyclone Lola destroyed “most” of the food crops on Tikopia in Solomon Islands, when it hit as a category 5 system in October.

Civilian sailor Captain Scott Nguyen contacted RNZ Pacific after reading our coverage of the disaster.

He was in Vanuatu at the time, but has since sailed to Tikopia with supplies, and said the damage on the west side was “extensive”.

Cyclone damage in Tikopia.
Photo: Scott Nguyen / supplied

Almost all of the breadfruit trees, which were one of the community’s main sources of carbohydrates, had been knocked down.

“There is a tense atmosphere here,” Nguyen said.

A nurse in Tikopia told him: “We are lucky we won’t have people dying from lack of medicine, but I am scared that it won’t be long before we have people dying because of lack of food.”

Ariki Tafua.
Photo: Scott Nguyen / supplied

Nguyen said the head chief on the island stressed that while everybody was okay right now, he was concerned about starvation once their supplies ran out. That would be in just two to three months’ time.

While just four people in Tikopia were injured by the cyclone, “the critical issue is that without outside food, their existing food and emergency fermented food stocks will run out and then there will be mass starvation”, he said.

With the gardens damaged, there was no back-up.

Children in Tikopia.
Photo: Scott Nguyen / supplied

“The gardens are crucial because, without a supply ship, that is the only way they feed themselves,” Nguyen said.

“The crops are damaged obviously, but a bigger issue is that there are trees downed all over the garden.

“They have two chainsaws and we gave them about 40 litres of petrol, which will help them clear the mountaintop gardens, but then it will take months before the new batch of crops produce anything edible.”

Nguyen said the most useful thing his crew has been able to do for the Tikopians is connect them with the National Disaster Management Office via Starlink.

One of the island’s chiefs, Ariki Tafua, has been using Starlink to video call with Jonathan Tafiariki, the head of the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office.

The community had been waiting for support, and Nguyen was the first sailor to arrive there with supplies.

A police patrol boat that was expected to depart Honiara in October carrying rice and medical supplies has been delayed for at least another week, he said.

Captain Scott Nguyen.
Photo: Scott Nguyen / supplied

A Solomon Islands medical doctor and Tikopian community spokesperson based in Honiara, Jackson Rakei, told RNZ Pacific in October that once that patrol boat does depart, it will take three days to arrive.

A woman in Tikopia.
Photo: Scott Nguyen / supplied

“The NDMO director Jonathan [Tafiariki] is trying to get the Australian military to use one of their supply ships to deliver aid,” Nguyen said. “They have been completely isolated.”

“Needless to say, they are extremely happy we showed up.”

This content was originally published here.

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