Islands Development Company (IDC) welcomed a first group of guests to Farquhar on Tuesday this week. The island had been closed to visitors for the past eighteen months for reconstruction work following catastrophic damage caused to the infrastructure of the island by cyclone Fantala in April 2006.
The ten guests arrived on the island on board IDC’s aircraft which will now operate weekly flights to Farquhar. Guests come to Farquhar mostly for fly-fishing. Fly fishing operator Fly Castaway, which markets the guesthouse to fly fishermen, has rented the guesthouse for an initial period of eight weeks.
IDC CEO, Glenny Savy, expressed his satisfaction on the arrival of the guests, saying, “It’s a great achievement for us given the amount of damage that was caused to the infrastructure on Farquhar and the time frame that we did it in. We’ve done a good job in getting the guest house and the island infrastructure back to operating condition. So at least now the island will start generating some revenue, which is very important for IDC. The fact that we will have weekly flights to the island now means that communication and access to the island will improve significantly.”
IDC has had to completely rebuild several of the buildings on the island including the guest house, several workers houses, generator and desalination rooms and shops. All buildings on the island now have concrete roofs to make them as cyclone proof as possible.
Mr. Savy shared that there was still more construction work to complete as well as the revegetation of the island. “Most importantly, we have also started work on the replanting programme,” Mr. Savy revealed. “We have done a lot of clearing – about 30% of North Island – and tree planting will now start with the arrival of rains, which are expected any time soon. The vegetation management plan, with the assistance of UNDP has been done for Farquhar. The revegetation plan will probably take anything between three to five years. It’s going to be a long process because we can only plant during the rainy season. During the dry season we do clearing in preparation for the planting for the following rainy season. It’s nice to see that things are back on line because those who liked to work on Farquhar are now back in their jobs.”
The cyclone caused US$4.5 million in damages and losses. This is equivalent to 0.3% of Seychelles GDP. “The Government of Seychelles will lose around US$500,000 in revenue which it collects as value added tax and business tax from Farquhar during the island’s gradual recovery,” said Mr. Wielinga. The preliminary findings show that the Indian Ocean island’s recovery needs stand at around US$8 million, he added.
Cyclone Fantala began life as a tropical disturbance with central pressure of 1003 hPa around 12.7° South, 62.7° East on 11 April 2016. The Seychelles National Meteorological Services (SNMS) issued its first advisory bulletin after receiving the information from the Regional Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre, Météo-France La Reunion (RSMC La Reunion). The tropical disturbance then deepened rapidly as a tropical cyclone as it moved towards the outer islands of Seychelles, developing further into an intense tropical cyclone before hitting Farquhar. At that time the estimated central pressure had decreased to 910 hPa and the wind speed reached between 300 to 350 km per hour. Every building except the cyclone shelter was destroyed or severely damaged. Fantala then moved northwest of Farquhar, but made a u-turn and the atoll a second time on Tuesday 19 April, albeit at a lower wind speed estimated at 140 to 160 km per hour.