Tonga officials look at medium and long-term needs post cyclone
The Tongan government is now assessing what medium and long-term needs the cyclone-hit islands of Ha'apai require.
The chief executive at Tonga's Infrastructure Ministry says it could take months to repair the damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Ian, the worst cyclone to hit the Kingdom in more than 30 years.
The category five storm, which killed one person and injured 14 others just over a week ago, displaced more than half the northern Ha'apai group's population of 8,000.
It also damaged power lines and buildings, and wiped out most of the food crops.
Mary Baines filed this report.
Ringo Faoliu says its priority is fixing the damaged Niu'ui Hospital wing, and repairing the 13 badly damaged schools before children are expected back in two weeks. He says the army is in the process of transporting construction materials to Ha'apai.
RINGO FAOLIU: There's a team from the local power board, they are trying to get the electricity or the power back into schools and the hospital as a core focus right now. What we've done is get some construction materials to Ha'apai as well. Right now they are working on what has been effected on the hospital, especially on the roofing, to ensure that essential services are already there in place.
Mr Faoliu says the government is consulting with the people of Ha'apai to ensure their immediate needs of health, sanitation, food and clean water are being met. He says while the government is grateful for the amount of aid pouring in, more tents are needed.
RINGO FAOLIU: We look at the different phases of the re-build. The immediate, the medium and the long-term. What we are currently doing is going through this immediate response, and collecting database for the housing, collecting database for the transport infrastructures and looking at the buildings as well.
Mr Faoliu says the economic cost of the cyclone is not yet known, but a clearer picture will be available at the end of the week when members of the World Bank arrive to assess Ha'apai's long-term needs. The Red Cross general secretary, Sione Toemoefolau, says some people being housed in evacuation centres are beginning to return to their villages, clean up debris and set up in tents. He says it is providing psychological counselling for those who have lost their homes.
SIONE TOEMOEFOLAU: The psychological support team, they are working over at Ha'apai, and we give them a start-up kit to help them come back to their home and start their life. People are still traumatised, so let them do something. And the thing is, in Ha'apai, they start to come up and clean their homes - if there's some left over roofing iron to try and put a little covering for them.
The Director of Health, Siale Akauola, says while the water is clean at evacuation centres, it is working to sanitise water supplies before victims move back into their communities. He says many of the rooftop rainwater collection systems were damaged during the storm and some tanks were contaminated with salt water.
SIALE AKAUOLA: Our first priority obviously is to provide clean drinking water for people, and we have short term and medium to long term plans in place to assess the need and then respond appropriately.
Dr Akauola says it may move a desalination plant to Ha'apai, and construct new rain-water collection systems. He says there has been no reports of water-borne disease at this stage.
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