Pacific nations plan
Representatives of 17 nations
wrap up an East-West Center
conference in Honolulu
Energy officials from Pacific island nations wrapped up a conference at the East-West Center on planning for natural disasters yesterday.
Utility managers from 17 nations, from tiny Niue to Papua New Guinea, attended the two-week conference to brainstorm strategies that could prevent death tolls like those caused by December's earthquake and tsunami in Southeast Asia.
The tragedy was on the minds of participants as they made lists of the types of disasters they foresee in the next 10 to 15 years and drew up practice plans on how to warn people and handle the damage to power plants. Tsunamis, earthquakes, avalanches, volcanic eruptions and cyclones were among the potential natural disasters facing these nations.
"I was surprised that a lot of managers of utilities would take two weeks off to come to a seminar," said Jan Cloin, energy adviser of the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission. "It shows people think it's important to have something prepared."
Cloin said a number of smaller Pacific island nations, many of which have few fiscal resources, do not have disaster management plans.
"I think most utility managers and system managers are going back to their islands with the realization that they really need one," Cloin said.
Though the tiny islands are separated by miles of ocean, they share a strong sense of culture and community that comes in handy during disasters.
"People will help each other out," Cloin said.
The U.S. territories and island nations that attended the conference were: American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Cook Islands, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu.
The East-West Center held a similar conference last year, before the tsunami that killed upward of 300,000 struck Indonesia, Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations.
The center said it might hold another disaster risk reduction conference in 2006 for the islands' telecommunications managers.