Building back towards storm-resilient housing: Lessons from Fiji's Cyclone Winston experience

Storm-related disasters lead to massive destruction of housing structures all over the world. In 2016, Fiji was struck by Cyclone Winston, which rendered approximately 15% of the country's population homeless. In light of the severe devastation brought about by the cyclone, there is a need to better prepare for future hazards, particularly in the resilience of housing structures in developing countries. A research delegation traveled to Fiji and surveyed two villages in Ra province, which were among the most severely affected by the cyclone. The field study was supplemented with an archival review of post-disaster reports and other background information obtained from key government agencies and non-government organizations working on the recovery and rehabilitation of the affected areas. Structural failure modes and patterns on damaged and collapsed houses were observed and analyzed. Results reveal the vulnerabilities of Fijian housing structures to severe winds. Inadequacies are observed in both design and construction aspects, underpinned by people's awareness of and access to cyclone-proofing practices and technologies, availability of skilled labor, and the corresponding costs. These underpinning factors would have to be addressed in order to develop a storm-resilient housing stock in Fiji.

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