5 Oct 2009

Service held in Tonga for tsunami victims

12:27 pm on 5 October 2009

A service has been held in Tonga to remember the nine victims of Wednesday's tsunami.

Four men, three women, a male child and a female infant were among the victims of the tsunami that hit the coastal village of Hihifo in Tonga's northern island of Niuatoputapu.

Radio Tonga reports their funerals were all held on Thursday and thousands of church members from different denominations gathered at a combined service last night to remember those who lost their lives.

Meanwhile, three of the four critically injured people who were evacuated to Nuku'alofa are in a stable condition in Vaiola hospital and one is under close supervision.

Of the three affected villages of Hihifo, Falehau and Vaipoa, a total of 192 families have been left homeless, 143 families have damaged houses and 289 have been unaffected.

More relief supplies are being rushed to Tonga as the government continues to receive further overseas assistance.

A scientist from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii, says without investing in more expensive technology, public education is the key to survival from tidal waves after severe earthquakes.

Dr Gerard Fryer says there was not enough time to warn people close to the epicentre of this week's earthquake about the oncoming tsunami.

"The lesson from that is we just have to do a better job of education. This was a very severe earthquake. Everybody in the Samoas felt the earthquake. In most locations it would have been such severe shaking that they had difficulty standing. So the bottom line is, if you experience such an earthquake if it is really very severe, then as soon as the shaking is over you should walk inland. You don't have to run, just walk, but you do have to get started right away."

Dr Fryer says he believes some Pacific nations are planning to put together a local seismographic network which would allow them to get more rapid warnings from the centre in Hawaii.