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Forestry Chainsaw Skills Critical Prior to and After Cyclones

Staff from the Ministry of Forestry have been on full cyclone operations mode since Wednesday attending to eleventh-hour calls from the public to trim trees that are a threat to lives and property. They worked in collaboration with the National and Divisional Disaster Management offices and both the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) and Energy Fiji Limited (EFL).

Forestry Executive Director Operations Manasa Luvunakoro said the combined efforts complement the work of the EFL which has an ongoing programme trimming trees that obstruct electrical lines.

“So, most of the requests coming in prior to the cyclone were to do with trees near to residences and infrastructure,” he said.

“We deployed teams with chainsaws and I am thankful that they were able to attend to the calls from the public prior to the cyclone. From yesterday morning, following the passing of Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasa, our teams worked in collaboration with the Fiji Roads Authority to clear fallen trees mainly on the road sides.

“In Vanua Levu, for instance, our teams were deployed immediately after the winds subsided to help clear the road to Savusavu and towards the Natewa Bay. They continued until late yesterday afternoon, under the watchful eyes of the Minister for Forestry Honourable Osea Naiqamu who is currently in the North.

“We have requested for more chainsaws and will be deploying more teams from Viti Levu to Vanua Levu especially to help clear the roads in Bua where the brunt of the cyclone was felt on Thursday night.”

He said the teams in the Western Division started clearing trees from 3.00 O’clock yesterday morning.

“Ideally, as part of our proactive measures, members of the public are requested to assess their environment months before the cyclone season and alert the National Disaster Management Office or the Ministry of Forestry. Our teams will prefer to trim trees in good weather as opposed to when the winds have started to pick up just prior to a cyclone striking. Sometimes, we cannot cut trees during this time as it poses a threat to the lives of our staff. So it is advisable for the public to inform us well in advance of the cyclone season,” he said.

Notwithstanding this, our teams have always known that we will be heavily engaged prior to and immediately after a cyclone. It is a task our teams look forward to do especially sharing their unique skills that involves tree-climbing using a harness and the use of chainsaws. Both are high risk activities that require proper training to reduce the risk to the tree climber and chainsaw operator, and the public.

“Yes, we have had incidences where people cause more damage to property and even lose their lives when they are not careful while using a chainsaw,” he said.

He said the Forestry teams also enjoy trimming trees with the knowledge that this will help save lives and property.

In addition to using their tree-climbing and chainsaw skills prior to and after cyclones, the Ministry is also deploying staff and resources as part of a whole-of-Government approach to dealing with natural disasters.

With the passing of the cyclone, our focus now is on assessing the damages it has caused. We will be deploying drones and vehicles to assist the national and divisional post-disaster needs assessment operations.

Mr. Luvunakoro also said that the Ministry will be on standby to also continue its housing rehabilitation work in the areas of need.

Following Tropical Cyclone Harold in April, the Ministry deployed staff and machinery to the islands in the maritime zone.

Minister Naiqamu said in Parliament last week that Forestry is currently leading the charge in implementing Government’s commitment to housing rehabilitation in the islands.

“In 30 weeks, we managed to re-purpose fallen trees into approximately 400 housing structures in the islands of Kadavu, Vatulele, Matuku, Totoya, and Ono-i-Lau,” he said.

Mr. Luvunakoro said that the housing rehabilitation work is ongoing and it looks like it will continue with Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasa.

“We have to accept the fact that cyclones are almost an annual occurrence in our part of the world, so it important to be proactive prior to the cyclone season, and to still be able to help after any cyclone,” Mr. Luvunakoro said.

“I would like to thank all the staff who braved the weather to use their skills to save lives and property, and to help with rehabilitation efforts,” he said. 

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