Adventist churches, schools damaged as tropical cyclone hits Tonga

Eye of the storm. (Photo: ADRA South Pacific Facebook page)

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Seventh-day Adventist churches, schools and houses have been extensively damaged by Tropical Cyclone Gita, which tore across Tonga overnight.

The Category 4 cyclone produced destructive winds of around 200km/h, and caused widespread flooding and power outages. Tonga’s Parliament building was flattened and many houses and buildings have lost their roofs. Reports coming through suggest that at least three people have been seriously injured.

ADRA South Pacific’s humanitarian program regional emergency coordinator Michael Peach provided an update earlier today, after speaking with Tonga Mission president Pastor Saia Vaea Vea. Pastor Vea was assessing the damage at Beulah College, an Adventist secondary school in Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital.

“He is in good spirits and has made contact with his district pastors, who are all describing significant damage to their houses and church buildings,” Mr Peach said in an email.

“He has been able to drive from Nuku’alofa to Beulah with assistance from the army, but is not confident he can travel much further at this time due to debris over roads.”

Beulah College, Beulah Primary and Hilliard Memorial Adventist schools have all been extensively damaged, according to Mr Peach. Beulah is the worst affected, with many buildings having lost their roofs, three staff houses uninhabitable and the industrial arts building badly damaged.

All schools had been closed by the Government, which declared a state of emergency yesterday in preparation for the arrival of the cyclone.

“Pastor Saia says churches will be opened to accommodate displaced families, but suggested providing these people with tents might be a better solution,” Mr Peach said. “This will enable them to shelter on their own property, use their own toilets and cooking facilities, etc.”

Pastor Kaufononga.

Samoa also suffered widespread flooding and blackouts when Tropical Cyclone Gita struck there on Friday. The cyclone intensified as it headed towards Tonga over the weekend. It is now moving towards Fiji.

Trans Pacific Union Mission president Pastor Maveni Kaufononga expressed his concern for all those affected.

“I am so sad to hear of the damage that Cyclone Gita did to our Pacific Islands, American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga.  Our prayers go out to you all at this very time.

“We are still living in a sinful world but praise the Lord, He is with us. May the thoughts of this verse gives you comfort: ‘We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed’ (2 Corinthians 4:8,9 NLT).

“God bless you all.”

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