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South Pacific Travel Alert

Issued by US Department of State

Dec 10, 2008

American citizens residing in or traveling to the South Pacific region are alerted that the South Pacific cyclone season runs from November 1, 2008, through April 30, 2009.  Countries in the South Pacific region covered by this alert include Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, as well as the territories of French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna islands.  American citizens in this region during the cyclone season should monitor local weather reports and take other appropriate action as further discussed below.  This travel alert expires on April 30, 2009.

Each season, the South Pacific region experiences approximately nine tropical cyclones, about half of which reach Category 3 intensity or above and have the potential to cause severe destruction.

American citizens have often encountered uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous conditions after storms have passed while they awaited transportation back to the United States.  Many U.S. citizens traveling abroad in affected regions have been forced to delay their returns to the United States because of infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability.  Damage to roads can limit access to airports and land routes out of affected areas. Flights can be suspended and passengers may face long delays before normal airport operations and flight schedules resume. U.S. embassies and consulates may be required to limit hours or temporarily suspend non-emergency services.  Looting and sporadic violence have occurred after natural disasters.  Security personnel may not be readily available to assist at all times.

Should a situation require an evacuation from an overseas location, the State Department will work with commercial airlines to ensure that U.S. citizens are repatriated as safely and efficiently as possible. Commercial airlines are the Department’s primary source of transportation in an evacuation and evacuees are responsible for the cost of these flights.  Other means of transport are used only as a last resort.

The Department of State does not provide no-cost transportation, but it has the authority to provide repatriation loans to those in financial need.  U.S. citizens should always obtain travel insurance to cover unexpected expenses during an emergency.

U.S. citizens living in or traveling to storm-prone regions should prepare an emergency kit containing a supply of bottled water, non-perishable food items, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and vital documents (especially passport and identification) in a waterproof container.  Emergency shelters often have access only to basic resources and limited medical and food supplies.

U.S. citizens should monitor local media to stay aware of any weather developments.  For further information on cyclone warnings in the South Pacific region, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (US military site) in Honolulu at metocph.nmci.navy.mil/jtwc.php, as well as Fiji’s regional meteorological center responsible for cyclone warnings in the South Pacific region at www.met.gov.fj/index.php?id=53.  Minor tropical storms can develop into cyclones very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation.  Travelers should apprise family and friends in the United States of their whereabouts, and keep in close contact with their tour operator, hotel staff, and local officials for evacuation instructions in the event of a weather emergency.  Travelers should protect their travel and identity documents against loss or damage, as the need to replace lost documentation could hamper or delay return to the United States.

U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the Department of State’s travel registration website at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/. By registering, American citizens can receive the Embassy’s most recent security and safety updates during their trip.  Registration also ensures that U.S. citizens can be reached should an emergency arise either abroad or at home.  While consular officers will do their utmost to assist Americans in a crisis, travelers should always be aware that local authorities bear primary responsibility for the welfare of people living or traveling in their jurisdictions.

Additional information on cyclones and storm preparedness may be found on the Cyclone Season 2008-2009 page of the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website at: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cyclone_season/cyclone_season_4395.html.  Updated information on travel in cyclone-prone regions may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada, or from other areas, 1-202-501-4444.  Travelers to the region are encouraged to check the internet site of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with consular responsibilities for the territory they will be visiting (accessible at usembassy.state.gov).  For further information please consult the Country Specific Information web page for the country or territory in question, available at travel.state.gov. 

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