Christian World Service launched an appeal last week to assist Tongan communities affected by Cyclone Gita.
The category four storm hit Tongatapu and ‘Eua overnight on February 12 causing extensive damage. Power lines, trees and buildings including Parliament House were flattened by winds that reached 233 km/hour and heavy rain.
Authorities report 70% of the population have been affected. Most families are salvaging what they can and carrying out immediate repairs. Surface flooding is expected to clear, but the threat of Dengue fever remains. Root crops and fruit trees have been badly damaged or destroyed. Tongans are working hard to clear roads and restore infrastructure including power and water supply.
The Tongan Government declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the cyclone and the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) is coordinating the response. The New Zealand government is helping to assess the situation and delivered the first relief supplies on 14 February.
“People will have food for the first days from their own supplies and fallen fruit but then will need help to get through. Shelter and safe water are major concerns. We want to make sure no one misses out,” says Pauline McKay from CWS.
CWS is working through the ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together) of which it is a member and the Tonga National Council of Churches. In anticipation of the storm local churches opened halls and other buildings for those needing shelter. ACT Alliance will deploy a staff member to Tonga when flights to Tonga resume.
CWS long-term partner Tonga Community Development Trust has reported staff are safe and initially are looking after their families and neighbourhoods. CWS has helped prepare for such a disaster through its training programmes on disaster risk reduction with Ama Takiloa women’s groups and disaster preparedness with the National Emergency Management Office. CWS expects the Trust will assist in the recovery phase: the repair of rainwater harvesting systems and the reestablishment of home and community gardens – areas of particular expertise.
Rev Setaita Kinahoi Veikune, Director of Pasifika Ministries of the Methodist Church in New Zealand is encouraging support for families and communities. “The [recent] news has bought the cyclone devastation in the Pacific very close to home and to our hearts. Please make a generous donation,” she says.
The cyclone tracked through the low-lying islands of Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa in Fiji’s southern Lau group overnight on February 13. The clean-up continues in American Samoa and Samoa where Gita hit earlier as a category three storm.
Donations can be made:
- On line to the Cyclone Gita Appeal and by direct deposit
- By Phone with a credit card: 0800 74 73 72
- By Post to: CWS, PO Box 22652, Christchurch 8140