FRENCH POLYNESIA RELIEF OPERATION FOR VAVA'U, TONGA ENTERS SECOND PHASE

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NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (July 31, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---Relief efforts initiated y French Polynesia on Vava'u earlier this year are entering their second phase, the regional news agency PACNEWS reports, quoting Tonga's Broadcasting Commission.

Workers from the French Polynesia's Intervention Group (GIP), who had arrived in February as part of the solidarity effort from French Polynesia's territorial government, were away on a seven-week leave. But they have now returned and resumed efforts to rebuild infrastructure (particularly schools) on Vava'u, which was severely hit by tropical cyclone Waka on New Year's Day.

The French territory's vessel, the "MV Meherio III," arrived last Friday, with workers and more construction material on board.

An Air Tahiti Nui Airbus also flew in on Sunday with more than 50 Tahitian workers, who are mainly focusing their efforts on the Neiafu and Tefisi primary schools.

They are also to build new classrooms for Ha'alaufuli, Pangaimotu and Ovaka.

The current school projects should be completed before the end of the year.

Earlier this month, Tonga's royal princess Salote Pilolevu Tui'ta, was in Tahiti on a one-week official visit.

Princess Pilolevu was responding to an invitation from territorial President Gaston Flosse.

She was accompanied by her spouse, Honorable Tu’ita, governor of Vava'u.

At the news of Waka's destructive trail, the French Polynesian government, invoking "Polynesian solidarity," voted a special budget of 100 million French Pacific Francs (about US$ 765,000) to help Tonga.

It also sent some 90 workmen, as well as 100 tons of food and 1,000 tons of construction equipment, to the Polynesian archipelago.

In February, Flosse visited Vava'u and kick-started reconstruction work led by his government, as part of relief efforts to the cyclone-stricken islands.

Flosse, who was on a special tour in the Kingdom, laid the foundation stone of what is to be the new Fangatongo primary school.

During his visit in Tonga, Flosse also met with his "very good friend," King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV.

Princess Pilolevu, while in Tahiti, thanked Flosse for his government's help to Vava'u. She also presented him with a special gift, a huge tapa cloth.

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