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Disaster assessment teams in Tonga say water, shelter and food are the immediate needs for people still reeling from the destruction brought by Tropical Cyclone Gita overnight.
Local and international NGO's are working with the National Emergency Management Office to try and gauge the extent of the damage on the main island of Tongatapu which hosts the capital Nuku Alofa and the nearby island of Eua.
On Tongatapu, the category four cyclone brought winds of over 233km/h which ripped roofs off houses, brought down trees, destroyed a Catholic church, and took the Tonnage Met Office and the national radio station off line.
Local youth worker Vanessa Helot, who is volunteering with the Red Cross, said people in the communities they visited were absolutely devastated by the damage and destruction to their homes.
“We are seeing shops that the rooftops have been uprooted all their goods are exposed. We are seeing floods and also a lot of branches and a lot of electric lines. We have talked to some women this morning their priorities are water, blankets and food.”
She said it would have a huge impact on people's lives in Tonga.
“It is a big issue because this is their livelihood and it is like we have to start all over again. You know there is no electricity there is no water. Not everyone have water tanks have fresh water.”
Nuku'alofa resident, Joshua Saveeti, described the scene as people in his neighbourhood emerged from their shelters after what he said was a terrifying night.
“Another neighbour just a few houses down. The roof went off the walls are gone and all that is left standing there is just all of their furniture and their things.
“So they had evacuated earlier in the day. And they just got home this morning we were all walking in and then they saw their house and then, yeah, they just lost it.”
Meanwhile, Tonga's emergency services said they were struggling to get out and assess the damage after Gina left a trail of destruction.
Roads all over Tongatapu are blocked by debris and downed power lines hampering relief efforts.
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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