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The formation of Tropical Storm ‘Podul’ was first identified on August 27, 2019, with the AHA Centre intensifying its monitoring efforts based on the potential size and impact of the storm. As September arrived, so too did a large Low Pressure Area (LPA) and a Tropical Depression – known as Tropical Depression ‘Kajiki’. The combination of the LPA, tropical storm and tropical depression resulted in significant rainfall and flooding across 6 provinces in Lao PDR – Champasak, Saravan, Sekong, Savannakhet, Attapeu, and Khammouan. The AHA Centre quickly stepped up to the call of support from the Government of Lao PDR, and responded through various means to support the affected communities of the ASEAN Member State.

Ready to operationalise the spirit of “One ASEAN, One Response”, the AHA Centre worked quickly to support the Lao PDR Government’s response through coordination, information management, rapid needs assessment, and deployment of ASEAN relief items from the region’s Disaster Emergency Logistics System for ASEAN (DELSA) warehouse network. The AHA Centre’s In-Country Liaison Team (ICLT) was mobilised to coordinate the region’s response support, and also facilitated the handover ceremony of DELSA relief items in Vientiane on 12 September 2019. The relief items comprised of family kits (330), personal hygiene kits (2,596), kitchen sets (1,144), mosquito nets (1,400) and jerry cans (1,400), which were airlifted into the affected region by the A400M of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, from the DELSA regional stockpile in Subang, Malaysia.

The AHA Centre’s Information Management specialist and ICLT, together with representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Education, and the Lao PDR Red Cross, also engaged in a National Joint Needs Assessment Planning Meeting implemented by the Director-General of Lao PDR’s Social Welfare Department in Vientiane. The AHA Centre worked collaboratively with in-country members of the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) to develop supporting tools and methods for the assessment efforts, to be translated into local language and provided to local staff for implementing the assessment in affected areas.

Flood waters began to subside on September 10, with conditions improving slowly through all affected provinces during the days that followed. The damage that remained was significant, with figures showing up to 89 bridges, 613 schools, 46 health centres and hospitals, 298 km of roads, 274,719 hectares of farmland, 574,742 livestock, and 36 reservoirs affected by the floods. Total damage is so far estimated at more than USD 10 million. Flooding and related hazards affected over 661,000 people, left 40,000 displaced, and resulted in the deaths of 18 souls. The AHA Centre’s Executive Director, Ms. Adelina Kamal, summed-up the region’s feelings when she spoke at the handover ceremony of DELSA relief items. “Our hearts and prayers are with the communities affected by the floods. The AHA Centre as a centre established by the ten ASEAN Member States, including Lao PDR, stands ready to enhance country-led response to alleviate the suffering of the flood-affected communities.”

Written by : William Shea  |  Photo Credit : AHA Centre