Tonga's Ha'apai a year on from Cyclone Ian
The Tonga Red Cross says hundreds of people are still living out of tents and under sheets of roofing iron in Ha'apai, a year since their homes were destroyed by Cyclone Ian.
Tonga's Red Cross says hundreds of people are still living out of tents and under sheets of roofing iron in Ha'apai, a year since their homes were destroyed by Cyclone Ian.
It says 4,000 people were displaced by the storm, and it is a concern that only about 50 houses have been rebuilt so far.
Mary Baines reports on how Ha'apai is recovering.
Last January's storm, which had winds of more than 250 kilometres an hour, killed one person, injured 14 others, and flattened infrastructure and half of all commercial buildings. It also damaged 13 out of 17 schools and wiped out most food crops. A World Bank assessment put the cost of the damage and economic loss from the disaster at 50 million US dollars, or 11 percent of the country's GDP. The secretary general of the Tonga Red Cross, Sione Taumoefolau, says the government is doing its best to push along the rebuild, but progress has been slow.
SIONE TAUMOEFOLAU: People they're still living in the tents at the moment. If you talk about 50 or 60 houses, you're talking about another 400 houses to complete. So the majority of people are still under the tents at the moment.
MB: Living in tents, you know, like tarpaulin tents?
Yes, yes. Tarpaulin tents. And some, they're still staying under the shelter, they make their own.
But Mr Taumoefolau says the people of Ha'apai are resilient.
SIONE TAUMOEFOLAU: They are a little bit sad because they do not have any housing or shelter. But you know, at the same time, they have something to survive even though they're still staying under the few sheets of roofing iron. But they're still surviving at the moment.
Just 50 of the 200 houses planned to be reconstructed by World Bank funding have been completed, even though the whole project was expected to be finished by the end of 2014. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also rebuilding houses, and has a permit to construct 105. It says just three have been built, but many more are nearing completion. The secretary to Ha'apai's governor, Kepueli 'Ioane, says legal work has slowed down the housing rebuild as there have been some issues with land ownership.
KEPUELI 'IOANE: There are lots of, some issues, for example the weather conditions. And also some problems with land issues. But we are still working hard for the land issues and most of the land is going well at the moment.
Mr 'Ioane says construction of housing is expected to be completed by April. The Ministry of Agriculture says Ha'apai now has enough crops to ensure food security for the next three months, and is growing sweet potato, cassava and yams over 300 acres of land. It's deputy chief executive officer, Taniela Hoponoa, says a drought at the end of last year caused some issues, but crops are now growing well.
TANIELA HOPONOA: After establishment of multi-purpose seedling ministries, [for] 10 months now we have been producing vegetable seedlings and distributing to the locals for their planting. So the status of food is growing very well and it was slightly affected, unfortunately by the prolonged drought that we seem happily to be getting over.
Tonga Power's chief executive officer, John van Brink, says work started in November to rebuild the network and make it more cyclone resilient. He says it's 15 percent complete and on track to being finished by the end of the year.
JOHN VAN BRINK: The rebuild is really going to make a robust network. Apart from flying debris, it certainly would withstand significant cyclone weather. We're also undergrounding, bringing new cable in underground from the power station through to a new hospital site, and an adjacent high school, which will be a new civil defence site.
Mr van Brink says it has also reconnected about 800 houses not destroyed by the cyclone, and will connect many more as the rebuild is completed. The Ministry of Infrastructure could not be reached for comment.
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