Post-Cyclone Assessment In Tonga Shows No ‘Significant Damage’

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Vava‘u evacuation centers empty, mosquito nets being distributed

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 23, 2016) – Apart from loss of agricultural food crops, some damage to schools, Ngu Hospital and HMAF Camp Fangatongo, Vava‘u has emerged from Cyclone Winston’s two close passes without significant damage to major infrastructure, an official assessment survey has concluded.

On Saturday 20 February a joint damage assessment in Vava’u was conducted by Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office (NEMO), government ministers and the Australian and New Zealand High Commissioners.

Disaster management and response experts from Australia and New Zealand were also deployed to Vava’u to assist NEMO with a formal damage assessment.

In a statement today, the Australian High Commission in Nuku’alofa reported that the resilient community along with the police service in Vava’u had begun making repairs to damaged buildings, clearing roads and properties and all evacuation centres had now been emptied.

Australia delivered 400 mosquito nets in partnership with the Tonga Red Cross Society. The mosquito nets, previously held in Tongatapu, will be distributed from Vava‘u Hospital to pregnant mothers and others at the greatest risk from contracting Zika virus.

"Australia will continue to monitor needs of the Government of Tonga in responding to the impact of Tropical Cyclone Winston in the Vava‘u Island Group and to prepare for future crises in Tonga," the statement said.

Australia is also providing assistance in Fiji, which has suffered the full force of Tropical Cyclone Winston on Saturday.

Taking part in the Vava’u assessment were the Governor of Vava'u, Lord Fulivai, Australian High Commissioner, HE Andrew Ford; New Zealand High Commissioner, HE Sarah Walsh; Minister for Health, Hon. Dr. Saia Piukala; Minister for Public Enterprises, Hon. Poasi Tei; National Emergency Management Office Director, Leveni Aho; and senior government officials.

NEMC report

Meanwhile, NEMO reported on 21 Febuary, following the weekend survey, that Rapid Assessment teams had been deployed to Vava’u to assess houses, schools and agricultural damage. Damage assessment is ongoing and being collated by District Emergency Management Center in Neiafu.

They reported that electricity had been restored to main areas, but there remained a few problems with water and communications:

Power to Mala Island remains unfixed due to bad weather and rough seas.

Water at Ha’akio, Talihau, ‘Utulei and Tu’anuku remain critical due to broken water pumps.

Hunga island communication was down due to solar panel power damaged by fallen trees

Both communication providers are operational (TCC and Digicel) but a few area face network issues.

Lupeau’u airport is fully operational, flights have resumed and the antenna for the communication tower was reinstalled.

The main wharf remains operational, but there was some damage to Vaimalo jetty

"Minor damage to schools are in the process of being repaired with children returning to school on Monday. Main loss was sustained by educational material.

"A Zika Virus Response Plan has been developed by Ministry of Health and accepted by the NEMO committee to be implemented immediately.

"A member of MAFF has been deployed to Vava’u to work with the Rapid Assessment Team to identify the extent of agricultural damage to cash crops such as vanilla and kava. A detailed assessment as to the extent of the damage to all crops and food sources will be carried out to plan for future crop/food shortages on the island."

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