Tongan cyclone recovery plan approved by Cabinet
The Tongan government says it has approved a cyclone recovery plan that looks at Ha'apai's immediate to long term needs.
The Tongan government has approved a cyclone recovery plan to deal with the category five storm which displaced 8,000 people, destroyed buildings and infrastructure and flattened food crops three weeks ago.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Samiu Vaipulu, says the plan includes immediate needs such as ordering 200 more tents and setting up desalination plants on the outer islands.
He says long-term plans are also addressed in the plan, such as rebuilding schools and housing, replacing infrastructure and long-term food security.
But he told Mary Baines that it will take some time for Ha'apai to get back to normal.
SAMIU VAIPULU: I think it will take some time. I have been in cyclones here in Tonga, in Tongatapu and in Vava'u, but this is the worst I've seen, the one in Ha'apai. So it'll take quite a bit of time but we are planning on trying to have something in place for the people to move into, out of the tents, before the end of the year. And we're seeing how best we can do it.
MARY BAINES: So how is the recovery effort going three weeks on? Is there enough supply of food, water and shelter at the moment or is there still a need?
SV: It's still going on schedule. At the moment, we are ordering another 200 tents - that should be around 700 to 800 tents already that we've distributed in Ha'apai. With water, we have installed a desalination at Lifuka and we are getting more desalination plants to outer islands. Fortunately it was raining last night in Ha'apai.
MB: What are the government's priorities now? Are you still looking to the immediate needs or starting to move into medium [term]?
SV: Yeah, we are starting to move. Cabinet have just approved the recovery plan, so we are moving to that stage, but at the same time we are still working on the immediate response to the people.
MB: Sure, so what's in this response plan?
SV: Well it consists of looking at schools, building schools, we've done the hospital up already, looking at building houses for the people of Ha'apai.
MB: And when will that start, the rebuilding of houses?
SV: Cabinet have approved our plans, everything, so we will look for the funding. I will be in Ha'apai with the World Bank and we will see how we can possibly fund this reconstruction of Ha'apai.
MB: And what about the power situation, is all the power back on?
SV: Yes, the area where Ha'ano group, their power was back the following day because everything was underground. So they were fine. With the two main islands, Pangai we've got 200 homes already, and they are moving onto the next island, so it's ahead of schedule at the moment, the power.
MB: And last I heard the children would still be going back to school on Monday, doubling up in classrooms and potentially in tents as well. Has that all gone to plan?
SV: Yes, we've arranged church halls and tents where the school has been totally blown off. And cabinet have just approved all students in Ha'apai don't have to pay school fees, like government schools, and for church schools, government will subsidise that.
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