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$4 million for 100 homes lost in tsunami

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Dec. 17, 2009) - THE World Bank has approved a 7.5 million pa’anga [US$4 million] grant for the construction of about 100 houses for people who lost their homes in Niuatoputapu, in northern Tonga when the island was struck by a tsunami on September 30.

[PIR editor’s note: Niuatoputapu is an island of 6 square miles in Tonga’s Northern Group, north of the country’s main island of Tongatapu. The island serves as a port of call for inter-island shipping between Tonga and Samoa. A wharf at Falehau, on the north side of the island, offers anchorage for yachts. Copra, limes, and breadfruit are produced. On Sept. 29, 2009, an undersea earthquake of magnitude 8.3 generated a tsunami that devastated the island. Some 10 islanders were killed and a number of coastal villages were destroyed.]

Ms. Carolina Renteria, a spokesperson for the 11 Executive Directors of the World Bank who were visiting Tonga to have "a first hand view of the development challenges that Tonga faces" told the Tongan media that included in the grant is an allocation for the island's wharf and port facilities.

In a joint press conference with the Tongan Prime Minister, Dr. Feleti Sevele, Ms. Carolina Renteria said that the World Bank delegation during their two days visit went to Vava'u and saw 740 houses that were built, funded by the World Bank, following tropical Cyclone Waka, which struck Vava'u on New Year's Day 2002. The delegation also visited primary schools, the hospital and the Transport Sector.

Carolina said that the World Bank works closely with the Tonga government and other development partners and their visit was to ascertain the financial support of the World Bank meets the needs of the country. She also pointed out that the World Bank also helps with the development of telecommunications through Digicel, and the drafting of a renewable energy road map for Tonga. They are also supportive of Tonga's plan to reduce its reliance on fossils fuel by 50 percent by 2012. She said that the delegation now has a more holistic view of Tonga.

"We are very pleased to see a country that is well managed, and according to the Prime Minister, the people are very happy and are enjoying life." The Prime Minister thanked the delegation and the World Bank for their grant assistance to Tonga over the years, and appreciated their mission to see for themselves what is happening in the country. He told the delegation that there is "no starvation, no homelessness and the people are happy because their basic needs are catered for."

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