05.02.2013 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Cyclone Evan in Samoa

Cyclone Evan hits Samoa

Response and Participation of UNESCO, Apia

Cyclone Evan made landfall in Samoa on December 13, 2012 causing widespread damage across the country, bringing heavy rainfall and flash floods and maximum sustained winds up to 166.7 kilometres per hour. The impacts were severe with at least five deaths, while 4763 people were displaced. Evan destroyed a power plant and electricity distribution infrastructure cutting power nationwide, disrupting communication services, ripping trees out of the ground, destroying buildings and roads, and damaging a vast area of crops. Moreover, water facilities and distribution systems were also badly damaged and disrupted nationwide.

After conducting an inspection of the areas affected by the National Disaster Council (NDC), the Government of Samoa declared a state of emergency for a period of 30 days The Government also called for international assistance for the evacuees as high winds damaged homes and Apia's Vaisigano River broke its banks.

UNESCO staff contributed actively at all three levels of the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA). The PDNA consist of Damage and Loss Assessment (DALA), Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and a DRM related assessment.  UNESCO Apia led the DRM component of the assessment and contributed to other chapters on impacts to culture sites and the education sector. 

Disaster Risk Management

This assessment led by UNESCO consisted of experts from the Samoan Government, World Bank, UNISDR, and SOPAC. The analysis of Cyclone Evan centred on describing the progress, the overall performance of the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) system, needs arising from the impacts and lessons learnt from the event. Key needs identified both for short, medium to long term include the following; Strengthening of flood and tropical cyclone forecasting and warning systems; mainstreaming of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) in environmental and develoopment policies as well as urban and coastal zone management, Strengthening Disaster Risk Management Governance arrangements, strengthening community resilience programs.


UNESCO, with technical support of ICOMOS Japan, assessed ten cultural heritage sites and facilities impacted by the cyclone. The overall damages sustained to the Culture Sector were assessed as moderate, while there are several landmarks of Samoa that suffered severe damages.  The historic buildings of most concern are the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum (RLSM) and the Old Courthouse. Damages at RLSM are mostly to the botanical garden surrounding the museum. The Old Courthouse, suffered water leakage from the damaged ceiling and continues to be affected due to the continuing wet weather. The assessment also highlights the damages and losses relating to the integrity and authenticity of the Fagaloa – Uofato protected area, which is on Samoa’s Tentative List for future nomination for World Heritage. This was the first time in the Pacific that the culture sector has been included in post-disaster needs assessment.

Overall, the assessment shows the vulnerability of the Culture Sector due to the lack of a national cultural policy and the limited capacity within this sector in disaster response activities.  Although Samoa is known for its cultural strength, the disaster has made Samoan traditional culture more vulnerable, through both direct damages and through losses that may be incurred through the post-disaster development projects that do not adequately factor in cultural values.  Keys to success for culturally sensitive/appropriate recovery lie in community participation and the commitment of traditional leaders and the government. 


UNESCO and UNICEF supported the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MESC) with the Damages and Loss assessment of educational facilities. The Samoa Education Sector’s losses were minimised as the cyclone struck during the school Christmas vacation but there was substantial damage to school buildings and educational resources in the affected areas. Government schools and mission, private, vocational and early childhood education institutions within the most affected parts of Upolu were assessed.

In addition to repairs to building and replacement of lost resource materials, the team recommended provision of water proof containers to ensure the safety and security of school equipment and resources and for Planning and Urban Management Agency (PUMA) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) need to review the building codes of the schools and sanitation blocks based on the damage sustained to many of these buildings.

In terms of Climate Change Education, it would be useful for schools to use this experience to look at ways where their school buildings and property, and resources including teachers and students can become more resilient.

What Next?

The Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) has been completed. It will complement the early recovery assessment in order to prepare a long term recovery and reconstruction strategy.


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