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By Thibault Marais

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (February 9, 2002 - Tahitipresse/PINA Nius Online)---French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse took part in a ceremony Friday in Vava‘u, Tonga, to mark the start of reconstruction of the island's main primary school.

The school, in Fangatongo, was seriously damaged when Cyclone Waka swept through Tonga's northern islands New Year’s Day with winds of up to 150 miles per hour.

It will be rebuilt thanks to a special GIP (Groupement d`Intervention de la Polynesie) team sent on the territorial ship 'Tahiti Nui' to provide disaster relief.

Given the extent of the damage and the age of the original building, the Tahitian delegation agreed with Tongan officials that it was better to dismantle the existing facility and build a completely new school.

Some 500 children attend classes at Fangatongo, the oldest school on the island.

The children warmly thanked the Tahitian delegation for its aid, which includes relief supplies as well as the services of the reconstruction team.

After several visits to the island’s primary schools during the first two days of his visit, President Flosse then visited Vava‘u’s high schools.

At the Chanel Catholic high school, about 300 teenagers have continued classes in roofless rooms, as is the case at other cyclone-hit schools.

President Flosse told them that the Tahitian aid was given because Tonga and Tahiti have always had friendly relations.

He said: "In a way, we all are related. We share the same background and we are concerned by your problems.

"This is the Polynesian way. We must help each other when one of us is in dire straits."

The 90 men from the GIP will stay in Tonga for three to six months, until the reconstruction projects are completed.

For additional reports from Tahiti Press, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Sources: Agence Tahitienne de Presse.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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