Tonga is down but not out as rebuilding continues
By ILIESA TORA
NUKU’ALOFA-February 18, 2018: 4.45pm (Nuku’alofa Times): The people of Tonga, both locals and expats, have come together to rebuild following the short, disastrous visit hereby Cyclone Gita on Monday night.
‘Eua and Tongatapu were hit by the category 4 cyclone and the cost of damage continues to be counted daily – a week after the hit.
Although there has been no official cyclone related death, injuries to some locals were recorded.
On top of that were damage to houses, some of which were fully destroyed.
Farms around the two islands suffered extensive damage as well, along with lamp posts and the domestic airport at Fua’amotu.
His Majesty King Tupou VI went on air during the week and urged Tongans to come together and work in partnership to help the rebuilding.
China, New Zealand, Australia and the United States of America have come in with their assistance.
Schools have stayed closed for the week while most government ministries also had their services put on hold.
Major shopping centres remained closed because of damage suffered.
The Ministry of Education has called for a meeting on Monday to see the extend of damage from school managers around the two islands.
China Actively Assists Tonga in Disaster Relief
The Chinese Government, through the Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China sent a message to Akilisi Pohiva, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tonga on February 13, extending China’s heartfelt sympathy to the people of Tonga.
Mr Yi said China is ready to provide emergency disaster relief assistance within its capacity, and believing that with the joint efforts of the Tongan government and people, Tonga will be able to overcome the disaster and rebuild the country.
The Chinese Government has provided $500,000 US of emergency humanitarian assistance by remittance to the Tongan Government.
The Red Cross Society of China offered $100,000 US of emergency humanitarian assistance by remittance to the Red Cross Society of Tonga.
The Chinese Embassy in Tonga donated $40,000 Pa’anga by remittance for the relief work.
On February 15, Ambassador Wang Baodong, Chinese Ambassador to Tonga, met with PM Pohiva and briefed him on the assistance.
Hon Pohiva expressed his sincere gratitude to the sympathy from the Chinese Government and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the considerable assistance provided by China.
He said that Tonga looks forward to China’s participation in the post-disaster reconstruction of Tonga and is ready to keep communication with the Chinese side on the recovery effort.
AU3.5 million in Australian support for people affected by Tropical Cyclone Gita
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Hon ConcettaFierravanti-Wells announced additional humanitarian assistance to support Tongan communities devastated by Tropical Cyclone Gita on Friday, February 16.
The additional funding bring Australia’s total assistance for people affected by Tropical Cyclone Gita to AU$3.5 million.
Australia released and deployed $350,000 in life-saving equipment including emergency shelter, kitchen and hygiene kits to assist over 2,000 people in need following a request from the Tongan Government on Tuesday, February 13.
The first Australian Defence Force C-17 Globemaster landed at Fua’amotu the same day.
The additional funding of $3 million will support the work of the Red Cross Movement, the Tongan Women and Children’s Crisis Centre and Australian NGOs as they deliver urgent help to affected communities, such as shelter and protection services for women and children.
Australia will also support the Government of Tonga’s longer term recovery efforts, for example through helping to restore critical infrastructure and health and education services.
Prior to striking Tonga, Gita struck Samoa as a Category Two storm. In response to a request from the Samoan Government, Australia will provide $155,000 to support debris clearance, aerial surveillance and food assistance for those who have been displaced. An Australian structural engineer will assist with damage assessments.
New Zealand stands with a resilient Tonga
The New Zealand Government is supporting Tonga following Cyclone Gita, and sends its thoughts to all people affected.
“The Kingdom of Tonga is a friend and neighbour to New Zealand, and we are working closely with Tongan authorities to support their efforts,” New Zealand High Commissioner-designate Tiffany Babington said in a statement.
“Since the cyclone, the resilience of the Tongan people has shone through.
“New Zealand has so far committed $NZ2.25 million to Cyclone Gita relief. We have also provided surveillance capability to Tonga to help assess the damage.”
Two New Zealand Defence Force planes have arrived since Tuesday bringing with them emergency supplies including family hygiene kits, shelter kits, jerry cans, tarpaulins, generators and agricultural tools from New Zealand.
Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand Fire Service, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management are also in-country to help the New Zealand High Commission coordinate its initial response in support of the Government of Tonga.
“While there is still a lot of work ahead to recover from the cyclone, we commend Tonga for its relief efforts and stand ready to help.”
The New Zealand High Commission Emergency Fund has assisted by committing $14,000 pa’anga to the Tonga Red Cross to enable them to prepare logistics to distribute the emergency supplies. Pre-positioned supplies with Caritas and the Tonga Youth Congress have also been distributed.
United States to Provide Humanitarian Assistance
The U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji has expressed the United States of America’s condolences to all those impacted by the devastation wrought by Tropical Cyclone Gita in the Kingdom of Tonga on February 12-13.
“We are pleased to announce that the United States will provide $100,000 USD in initial assistance toward the relief efforts in Tonga. This support, provided via the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will help displaced families with water, sanitation and hygiene assistance,” the Embassy said in a statement.
USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance has deployed personnel to directly evaluate the damage to Tongan property and infrastructure and assess the immediate needs of the people of Tonga in order to safeguard life and property as they recover from Tropical Cyclone Gita.
In consultation with the government of Tonga and development partners, they will help determine what future assistance is needed.
Early reports in the aftermath of Gita from U.S. Peace Corps personnel who weathered the storm in Tonga emphasize the remarkable resilience and fortitude displayed by Tongans as they work together to clear roads, repair damage, and restore services, the statement said.
The United States is proud to join the Government of Tonga and other partner governments and organizations in working with the people of Tonga to rebuild.
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