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One confirmed dead, others injured in Cyclone Gita as PM Ardern says thoughts are with all affected
10:08 pm GMT+12, 13/02/2018, New Zealand

 New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has disclosed that there has now been one fatality and some people have been injured in Tropical Cyclone Gita in the Pacific.

Ardern has made a ministerial statement to Parliament, saying the Government's thoughts are with all those who have been affected by the cyclone.

Cyclone Gita made landfall in Tonga in the early hours of Tuesday, causing significant damage to homes, livelihoods and infrastructure, Ms Ardern noted.

It also impacted in the islands of the southern group of Fiji on Tuesday, with reporting from damage assessments expected over the course of the day, she said.

“Prior to this Gita caused widespread flooding in Samoa. Sadly there has now been one confirmed fatality and some people have been injured,” she said.

“Whenever disaster strikes in the Pacific New Zealand is on hand to help. Our Pacific neighbours know they can turn to us in times of need and New Zealanders can feel that we have done all we can in our response to date,” Ardern said.

“We remain in close contact with the Samoan authorities and have made initial funding of $50,000(US$36,000) available which is being used to support damage assessments as well as relief for flood affected families including those that remain in evacuation centres.”

Our High Commission in Apia is working with local authorities and NGO partners to distribute New Zealand's pre-positioned relief supplies, she said.

In Tonga, where destruction of more severe and widespread the NZ Minister of Foreign Affairs made initial funding of $750,000 available before the cyclone even reached landfall.

New Zealand has delivered over 10 tonnes of aid including 1000 tarpaulins, 200 shelter tool kits, 500 family hygiene kits and 2300 water containers to meet immediate needs, Ms Ardern said.

The Government has also deployed a 10 person team of experts, including from the Ministry of Health and Fire Service, to assist with the coordination of New Zealand support and to continue needs assessments.

The NZ Defence Force carried out aerial surveillance yesterday and collected imagery to assist the Tongan government with damage assessments, Ardern said.

“I want to acknowledge the leadership of the governments of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji in responding to this natural disaster. We remain in close contact with Tonga, Samoa and Fiji authorities to determine how we can provide further support and work collaboratively into the future,” she said.

“In the mealtime our thoughts are with all of those who have been affected.”

National's foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee said on behalf of the National Party he joined the Prime Minister in acknowledging the uncertainty many of our Pacific neighbours are facing in the wake of Cyclone Gita “and also to affirm our support for the Government's humanitarian responses”.

“Our thoughts and the thoughts of all New Zealanders are and with those people across Tonga, Samoa and Fiji who are injured or displaced and those who are now looking ahead to how they rebuild their homes and their lives,” Brownlee said.

SOURCE: TVNZ/PACNEWS


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