As Cyclone Winston approached Fiji on 19 February, 2016, Tonkin + taylor (T+T), aware of its deadly potential, decided to offer its services pro bono and quickly established a bespoke Project Orbit platform, the Cyclone Winston Viewer for UNOCHA and the wider humanitarian community. On 20 February, the Category 5 cyclone struck Fiji, causing widespread devastation across many of the nation’s 330 islands, its 310 km/h peak winds and massive storm surges sweeping away homes, destroying crops and infrastructure, and killing 44 people. Almost 350,000 people were affected and losses were estimated at $USD 250 million. For the first time, a web-based information portal was made accessible to all relief agencies, Government and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster affecting a Pacific island nation. Making factual spatial information available as soon as possible is fundamental to aiding an efficient, effective natural disaster response and recovery. Hosted in Auckland on our secure, robust server, rapid disaster mapping deployed imagery provided by on-ground T+T personnel and images provided by NZDF to analyse the damage and create damage maps, which were uploaded on to the Cyclone Winston Viewer. T+T liaised with key international NGOs, New Zealand and international aid organisations to expedite the humanitarian aid response and recovery phase. The “click and see” GIS viewer had the capability to present many layers of critical information, including Cyclone Winston’s path and buffer distances, the geo-location of images (which also opened selected post-disaster images), evacuation centres, Red Cross stations and their focus areas, road statuses and regional scale building damage mapping. This allowed first responders to prepare and equip themselves appropriately for the relief effort and to avoid “no go” hazard areas, thereby enhancing their safety.
Hazard assessment, technology and innovation; emergency/post-disaster response; rapid disaster mapping; information services; hosting of critical data; data analysis; liaison with, and support for, the Government of Fiji, NGOs, a wide range of aid agencies, also RNZAF, RAAF, UNOCHA and the New Zealand Government.
- Natural hazards resilience
The application of the lessons from T+T’s Canterbury earthquake response to a major natural disaster in Fiji has become the gold standard for post-disaster data gathering, analysis and dissemination across the Pacific. Since it was first developed out of the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence, it has proven effective in Fiji, Kaikōura and, more recently, Sulawesi, Madagascar, and following Cyclone Gita’s impact on Tonga – for which T+T again provided assistance pro bono. “A particularly novel and positive development was the collaboration between Tonkin + Taylor and NZDF, integrating surveillance photographs onto T+T maps, providing a coherent and country-wide visual damage assessment that helped inform NDRF member relief planning.” - Council for International Development: “A Softer Landing, Tropical Cyclone Winston After-Action” Report, 2016.
Peter Quilter - Coastal engineer and drone operations expert
Kathryn Longstaff - Natural hazards analyst