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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, November 23) – Tonga’s business community, suffering an estimated TOP$200-$300 million [US$98-$147 million] worth of losses, are uncertain whether or not they will be covered by their insurance policies.

The issue of insurance cover and the fact that most insurance policies have a riot clause that means insurance companies may not pay out for damage caused by civil disturbances, was the first concern expressed by business people attending a casual meeting called by a new Tonga government Committee for Reconstruction and Recovery on November 22.

"We need to establish the cause of the destruction, and the official cause will have a big bearing on the liability of insurance companies," the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Paul Karalus told about 50 business people assembled at the Longolongo Police Compound, outside of Nuku'alofa's central Restricted Zone.

The meeting was chaired by the Minister of Labour, Commerce and Industries, Lisiate 'Akolo, who said the government wanted, "to get feed back of what you want.

"We are in a big crisis. It's been roughly estimated by the Ministry of Works in a walk-around survey that the loss of buildings alone exceeds $40 million, and this doesn’t take account of stock or inventory losses."

"We all agree it is much, much higher than that!" people at the meeting interjected.

Richard Prema, director of a major retailer Prema and Sons Ltd., said that he estimated the town's losses were already in the vicinity of "$200 million to $250 million."

Other people thought combined losses may reach $300 million, and added that this would not include the loss of business cash flows or the loss of records, and then the loss of time was "incalculable".

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