Reports of damage caused by cyclone in Tonga: Oxfam prepares to send staff

Media Releases article written on the 12 Jan 2014

Oxfam is preparing to send a rapid assessment team to Tonga to assess the situation on the ground and identify the most urgent needs for people following reports of severe damage caused by Cyclone Ian to Tonga’s northern island group of Ha’apai.

The extent of the devastation is still unclear but a representative from the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) has reported that public buildings like the Palace, market, magistrate and police offices have been damaged. In Pangai, the capital of Ha’apai, one home was lifted and transported 50 metres before being set down, and many other houses have been badly damaged.

Oxfam Australia’s Pacific Regional Manager Vita Maiorano said it was still difficult to establish clear communications with the area.

“Communications are proving difficult and Oxfam is still trying to establish the facts but our experience of cyclones in other contexts suggests that people will need food, shelter, clean water and sanitation,” Ms Maiorano said.

“Once the critical needs are assessed we’ll decide whether we need to help with the supply of clean water and sanitation or assisting farmers, fishermen and markets to secure the food supply – or both. We have experienced engineers and farming specialists ready to go.”

In Tonga, including in Ha’apai, Oxfam has worked with the Tongan National Youth Congress (TNYC) since 1991. Through the partnership, hundreds of families are producing virgin organic coconut oil for export which is generating valuable income. These programmes increase people’s resilience and enable quicker recovery when disaster strikes.

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