Most without insurance in cyclone-hit Ha'apai
Most people are without insurance in Tonga's cyclone-hit island group of Ha'apai, which may result in the government having to foot the $30-million bill.
The largest insurance company in Tonga says only about 15 percent of homes in Ha'apai have been insured against cyclones.
This has left the government to help cover much of the 30 million US dollar repair bill after Cyclone Ian last month.
The government has said while it will help affected homeowners replace their damaged properties, it is unlikely it will be able to fund uninsured businesses and churches to do the same.
Mary Baines filed this report.
The managing director of National Pacific Insurance Limited, Darryl Williamson, says Cyclone Ian highlights the low rate of insurance throughout the Pacific.He says cyclone cover comes at an extra cost, so many people choose not to get it, and NPI will only offer the cover if dwellings are built to standard.Mr Williamson says NPI has been in touch with all affected customers and initial claim assessments have been completed.The deputy prime minister, Samiu Vaipulu, says those who are not insured will not have to pay to fix their houses, but will have to help with rebuilding them.
SAMIU VAIPULU: In 1982 we had a cyclone and we wanted the people to pay some money into the housing. What ended up was the people that most needed the houses didn't get it because they didn't have the money. So what we are trying to do now, this time, is to have the community help in the reconstruction instead of trying to pay.
Mr Vaipulu says the government is requesting international funding to replace those 800 badly damaged homes by 2015. He says whether the government will help pay for damaged businesses and churches will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
SAMIU VAIPULU: With businesses and churches, it's yet to have some Cabinet decision on that, but I'm sure with importing, duty free and looking at CT. We'll have to treat it case-by-case so that no one would abuse the whole process and we would loose revenue from someone abusing the process.
But the general secretary of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Tevita Havea, says going from past experiences of other natural disasters, the government will not step in to help. Reverend Havea says the church will raise money itself to rebuild 21 churches and church schools, which were not insured.He says that will take between 10 and 20 years, and all other church groups on Ha'apai are in the same position.
TEVITA HAVEA: Church will come last, and we don't have time to wait around for 5 to 10 years before we find out that we will not be assisted by the government. So we already warned them that we have 21 buildings to be replaced and we are moving forward with it.
Darren Rice, who owns the badly-damaged Matafonua Lodge, says as most businesses in Tonga do not have insurance they will have to pay for repairs themselves.
DARREN RICE: It's pretty much impossible to get insurance when you live so close to the ocean, in a cyclone environment. So there's no such thing as resort insurance in Tonga. So, no, it's all going to have to be rebuilt.
Mr Rice says it is not an option to walk away from the badly-damaged resort, and is committed to having it up and running as soon as possible. The Tongan government has received funding from a number of international donors, including New Zealand, Australia, China and France. It has also received 1-point-2-7 million US dollars from the World Bank, under its Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot.
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