Tonga faces deepening crisis after Cyclone Gita


Tonga faces deepening crisis after Cyclone Gita

Tom Peters

21 February 2018

More than one week after Cyclone Gita devastated the Pacific island nation of Tonga, thousands of people are still in need of shelter and basic supplies. There are growing fears of mosquito-borne dengue fever and diseases caused by contaminated water, as well as a food shortage.

The category four storm was the most destructive in Tonga for at least 60 years. The impoverished country, with a population of around 108,000, is likely to take years to recover.

Houses and other buildings were destroyed, food crops flattened and infrastructure damaged, including roads, power lines and water tanks. Parts of Tongatapu, the main island, remained flooded five days later. A Red Cross representative told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the worst-affected area was the most-populated, low-lying eastern part of the capital, Nuku’alofa.

The total number of displaced and homeless people is not clear. According to an official estimate, 1,400 homes have been damaged or destroyed on the main island and neighbouring ‘Eua. On February 17, there were still 4,521 people sheltering in evacuation centres. Fairfax Media reported that some families were also sleeping in cars.

While electricity has been restored to some parts of Tongatapu, government officials say it could be a month before all villages have power. According to the Matangi Tonga website, the storm damaged 80 percent of power infrastructure around Nuku’alofa.

An estimated 40 percent of schools suffered severe damage, including inundation and destroyed roofs. Some will have to be rebuilt completely.

Tongan officials said the distribution of aid has been slow. On February 16, four days after the cyclone, the Emergency Management Office told Radio…

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