Nuku’alofa – January 21, 2020: 7am (MEIDECC) : The National Emergency Management Committee (NEMC) meeting in Nuku’alofa yesterday confirmed that survey and assessment teams are being sent out to the outer islands of Ha’apai, Vava’u and the two Niuas – Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou, to assess damage caused by Cyclone Tino.
The Chief Executive Officer for MEIDECC and interim NEMC Chairman Mr Paula Ma’u confirmed this at the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO).
Prime Minister Hon Dr Pohiva Tu’ionetoa and his delegation, including the Minister for MEIDECC, Hon Poasi Tei were on Ha’apai earlier yesterday to view first hand damage left behind by the category 2 cyclone.
Mr Ma’u told the NEMC that the New Zealand government paid for a charter flight, leaving Fua’amotu at 5.45pm this afternoon, taking government officials across for the survey and assessment.
A naval boat will also leave this week for the islands, including Nomuka in Ha’apai.
Mr Ma’u said it is important to carry out the survey and assessment to determine the extent of the damage, what is being damaged, what needs to be done and how much is needed to assist rehabilitation and recovery.
“We are thankful to the New Zealand government and our donors and partners who are ready to help us,” he said.
“Once the assessment and survey have been done we will know what we need to do and how much we will need to do those.”
The Director of Tonga MET Ofa Fa’anunu told the NEMC that the cyclone warning for Tonga has now been cancelled, along with all other warnings that were issued.
“Boats can now travel and things are returning to normal as well,” he added.
The Director of NEMO Mr Mafua Maka said initial damage confirmed there were no deaths or injuries but there were damage to roads and other infrastructure on Ha’apai and Vava’u.
“We are still updating our records,” he said.
“But initial reports point to the fact that food supplys is needed urgently out there on the islands and drinking water for some.
“Strong surges caused problems along the coastal areas and this is being looked at.”
The NEMC hopes to have a better understanding on the extent of damage, coast and how much is needed by the end of the week.
3000 without power
About 3000 people remain without power in Tonga’s Ha’apai group because of damage inflicted by Cyclone Tino over the weekend.
The storm, which reached category three cyclone status, wreaked havoc in parts of the central South Pacific over the past week.
Ha’apai’s governor, the Reverend Mohenoa Puloka, said while damage to housing had been minimal and there was no loss of life, a major causeway connecting the two largest islands in the group had been badly damaged.
Mr Puloka said the causeway connected Lifuka, where the hospital and airport is, with the island of Foa.
“The causeway is also the arm through which the electricity line is passed over from Lifuka to the other side of the bridge and right now it is still not working, there’s no power in that part of the island.”
Mr Puloka said it might be a couple of days before power could be restored.
He also said it would be at least a week before the causeway could be used for traffic.
“It needs reframing…A new foundation to that part of the bridge that was broken and we just ask people to hold on their communication, their transportation, and for those who have urgent needs they will have to use a boat.”
Tonga’s Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’ionetoa visited Ha’apai today to assess the damage and an announcement on assistance was expected within the next 24 hours.