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Tonga on 'long road to reconstruction' after Cyclone Gita
4:37 pm GMT+12, 13/02/2018, Tonga

An Air Force Orion will take to the air over Tonga on Wednesday to get a better idea of the carnage left behind in Cyclone Gita's path.
 
The same Defence Force plane that touched down on Tuesday with 12 tonnes of aid supplies, including shelter, hygiene kits, containers and tarpaulins, will take the aerial photos.
 
“That will allow us to figure out where the major areas are hit,” Joint Forces Acting Commander Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy told Newshub.
 
“But the 10-person team that we've got up there will give us the assessment on the ground in conjunction with the Tongan authorities.
 
“We've got a pretty well-oiled contingency response plan built around disasters in the south-west Pacific.
 
“Unfortunately it's been too well-practiced in the recent times.”
 
The cyclone barrelled through the pacific nation on Monday night, flattening buildings and uprooting trees in its path with 233km/h winds.
 
Thousands of people have been forced out of their homes but the full extent of the damage is unlikely to be clear until power is restored next week.
 
One person is reported dead and three more seriously injured.
 
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is leading New Zealand's response with Tongan Authorities, but aid agencies are preparing for the worst.
 
“We don't expect that the housing will fare very well in a Category 4 storm like the one that's been through Tonga,” Habitat for Humanity chief executive Claire Szabo told Newshub.
 
“There will be some immediate shelter needs that we're going to be responding to and then of course there's a longer term long road of reconstruction after these disasters.”
 
Most of Fiji dodged the cyclone, which headed their way after hitting Tonga, making landfall over the country's most isolated islands.
 
Communication and power is cut off to Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa in the southern Lau Islands, but Vilame Duimanu from Fiji's Disaster Management Office says current reports are looking positive.
 
“[Fiji] only has two houses completely damaged. The damage is mostly on the farms. There are no casualty reports.”
 
But Duimanu says they won't know the full extent of damage until contact with the islands can be made.
 
“There's no power supply on those islands. They still use generators.”
 
The Defence Force says they're prepared to extend the relief efforts to Fiji if necessary.
 
“We do have contingency plans that we could potentially support both relief efforts to Tonga and to Fiji,” McEvoy says.
 
‘As hard as that will be, that's what the Defence Force does in terms of contingency planning.
 
‘We're here to help people.”
 
On Tuesday the Government announced it would give an initial $750,000 (US$545,000) in aid to Tonga.

SOURCE: NEWSHUB/PACNEWS


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