Tonga welcomes NZ $750,000 aid offer in wake of Gita’s destruction

Tonga's Parliament House has been flattened by Tropical Cyclone Gita. Image: John Pulu/Tangata Pasifika

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

The Tongan government has welcomed New Zealand’s offer to donate $750,000 and personnel assistance in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Gita’s destruction.

The NZ government has a military plane with assistance ready to go once it is safe to land in Tonga.

Tonga’s Minister of Police Māteni Tapueluelu told Kaniva News in Auckland the government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had indicated yesterday before Cyclone Gita struck the kingdom last night that it stood by and was prepared.

Tapueluelu said the Tongan government was in the process of fulfilling procedural requirements before it could receive the donation and all assistance.

NZ Minister for Pacific People ‘Aupito William Sio said last night that while New Zealand was on standby mode ready to provide support to all Pacific countries affected by Cyclone Gita, “it will not respond unless requested by the affected Pacific government”.

Prime Minister Arden said the NZ government had a military plane and $750,000 ready to help cyclone-battered Tonga, Fairfax Media reported.

The NZ government had already pledged $50,000 to help but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ today a contingency fund had been signed off so there would be no “no hold up” when they knew where to use the funds.

Tongatapu scene today after Tropical Cyclone Gita. Image: John Pulu/Tangata Pasifika

The aftermath
Tonga’s main island Tongatapu and its island of ‘Eua were savaged by the category 4 tropical cyclone last night in what has been called the worst storm to hit the country in 60 years, with gusts of up to 278kmh.

Tongatapu and ‘Eua residents woke today to what “looks like a war zone” and are assessing the extensive damage left behind by destructive Cyclone Gita, with emergency services fearing there will be “more injuries if not deaths”.

New Zealand media said two deaths had been confirmed.

Gita brought gale-force wind gusts of up to 200km/h, record-breaking rainfall of more than 200mm in an hour, and surging tides threatening widespread floods.

Cyclone Gita’s “destructive core” battered the east coast, stripping palm trees bare, destroying businesses, churches, schools and leaving homes in ruins.

Devastating photos show buildings in Hihifo and Hahake areas of Tongatapu with roofs ripped off and homes inundated with water.

Tonga’s Parliament House was levelled and school buildings in Apifo’ou college have been ripped off.

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Kaniva News is an Auckland-based Tongan news and entertainment service that provides a unique bilingual news, cultural and musical services in Tongan and English using digital print, video, performance and audio. We are the only Tonga/English bilingual news service in New Zealand.