300 Ha'apai families still in tents after January's cyclone
300 families in Ha'apai are still living in tents following Cyclone Ian, and will not be in permanent housing until the end of the year at the earliest.
Nearly two months after Cyclone Ian hit Tonga, three hundred families are still living in tents, and the Red Cross says there's no plan yet on how and when their houses will be rebuilt.
But the Tonga government says it is doing all it can to deal with the lasting impacts of the storm and put its response plan into effect.
Mary Baines has more on the recovery effort.
The storm, which had winds of more than 250 kilometres an hour, killed one person, injured 14 others and displaced 4,000 people in Tonga's Ha'apai islands. It flattened infrastructure and half of all commercial buildings, damaged 13 out of 17 schools and wiped out most of the food crops. The director of the National Emergency Office, Leveni Aho, says repairs are estimated to cost at least 65 million dollars.
LEVENI AHO: It will take quite a few years to get the whole place back into normality. Our figures are based on what's been damaged to housing, infrastructures and agriculture but they haven't taken into account the actual impact on the economy. I think that's a much longer term.
Mr Aho says the emergency office is working hard to replant crops, provide clean drinking water and food, and has set up temporary schools. And he says the construction of permanent housing, which will be funded by the government as most properties were uninsured, will begin by the end of the year. But the general secretary of the Tongan Red Cross, Sione Taumoefolau, says the government has still not approved a housing plan, leaving those without homes in limbo. He says last week, people in tents were temporarily forced back into evacuation centres, when Cyclone Kofi threatened high winds and rain in Ha'apai.
SIONE TAUMOEFOLAU: We're still waiting for the government to finalise their planning so we can see how much we can construct before the government decides to build the permanent houses. It's a very challenging time because not only is it very hot now in Tonga, and also we've had very strong wind pass through here, and some of our tents were damaged.
The chief executive of Tonga Power, John van Brink, says it aims to eventually build a more resilient network in Ha'apai.
JOHN VAN BRINK: About 90 percent of our network was flattened through the cyclone, it was quite severe. We looked at the possibility of being able to rebuild the network with a different design standard, better conductors, putting in cables. But in the interest of time and getting supply back, we had to make a compromise, and we're now looking at seeing if we can actually, over the next few months, get the next stage of development done and upgrade the rest of the network.
The New Zealand High Commissioner in Tonga, Mark Talbot, says New Zealand has contributed a total of $2.4 million dollars to the recovery effort, with $1.7 million going towards restoring power. Mr Talbot says the remainder provided tents, fresh water, seeds and tools for agriculture and to assistance to aid agencies on the ground. He says the Tongan government is still working out how to best tackle the disaster, but can count on New Zealand's help.
MARK TALBOT: We're prepared to help with further requests for the reconstruction of the island. And I'm not just talking housing here, of course there are many needs, including agriculture, the schools, getting business back on its feet. We're in discussion right now with the government in Tonga where New Zealand could best possibly help.
The Tongan government has received funding from Australia, China and France, and the World Bank under its Pacific Catastrope Risk Insurance Pilot.
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