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Solomon Islands cyclone: missionaries appeal for aid

It seems over the Christmas-New Year period most of the Catholic Church has gone on leave. Virtually all of the Catholic Media Agencies have taken a break and apart from the Pope (who never seems to stop) and CathNews very few others seem to be home. In particular it has been difficult trying to get a Church story on the tragedy going on in the Solomon Islands -- a place in evident political and economic turmoil that is now having to cope with the devastation of one of the most powerful cyclones to hit the Pacific. Independent Catholic News has carried the first report we've seen where Salesian missionaries working in the Islands have appealed for aid.

Fr Luciano Capelli told the Missionary News Service: "I am in the middle of a tragedy: organisational interventions are desperately needed, but there is no one responsible to refer to, there is a great lack of money, food and boats."

Fr Luciano, who is based in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon islands, over 1,000km from Tikopia, Anuta and Fataka, said he had received reports of 350kph storms tearing through the islands on 28 and 29 December.

He said: "The strongest typhoon I have ever experienced in my 37 years of missionary life was one which hit the Philippines in 1970, at the velocity of 250km per hour." He described that as "disastrous."

He said that with more than 1,000 islands in the archipelago, distances were vast and the government was not prepared for a disaster on this scale. On Tikopia, he said there were no telephones, electricity, clinic or even radios.

Another Catholic church spokesman in the Solomon Islands told the BBC that the islanders were used to cyclones and he was praying that they would have sought shelter underground and in caves. But he said they would need a great deal of support to rebuild their communities in the aftermath of the disaster.

To make a donation to the Salesian community, send cheques to: ANZ BANK: Swift Code: ANZBSBSB - Mendana Ave, Honiara, Solomon Islands - 4137497; Don Bosco Community.


7 Jan 2003