Oxfam is ready to respond to Cyclone Ian, with destructive hurricane force winds now beginning to hit the islands of Tonga.
Ian is slow moving, which leads to greater destruction. Heavy rain, strong winds, high swells and flash flooding are expected to cause damage in a number of areas.
Winds at the storm’s centre are estimated to be averaging just over 200 kilometres an hour, with gusts of up to 290 kilometres an hour.
Oxfam partners in Tonga are reporting that strong winds are beginning to hit areas like Vava’u and are reporting fallen trees with the force of the cyclone forecast to be about 140 kilometres south-southwest of Vava’u (population 15,000) and about 18 kilometres southeast of Ha’apai (population 6,600) by 3pm AEST today.
Oxfam is preparing to send emergency staff to Tonga to assess the situation on the ground, and identify the most urgent needs, should they be required. Oxfam and its partners are working closely with the Tonga Government coordination group to support rapid assessment information gathering.
Vita Maiorano, Oxfam’s Pacific Regional Manager, said if damage in Tonga was severe enough to warrant a response the first stage of Oxfam’s response would be a speedy assessment of people’s needs in the aftermath of Cyclone Ian.
“Once the urgent needs are assessed the next stage would be to help coordinate the supply of clean water and sanitation for those affected by the disaster if that is needed,” Ms Maiorano said.
Oxfam, along with its partner the Tongan National Youth Congress (TNYC), has virgin coconut oil programmes in both Vava’u and Ha’apai.
People wanting to donate to Oxfam’s International Crisis Fund can go to http://www.oxfam.org.au/international-crisis-fund
To arrange interviews or for more information contact Louise Perry on 0414 456 015 or Sara Pelvin on 0448 554 495