ADRA South Pacific is on the ground in Tonga responding to the widespread and urgent need caused by Tropical Cyclone Gita.
South Pacific emergency response coordinator Michael Peach has been assisting the Tongan Seventh-day Adventist Church in the massive clean-up effort. He has been working with the Tongan Government, church leaders and district pastors to assess the situation and help develop a response plan.
Over the past three days ADRA and the Adventist Church have delivered food parcels to 515 households on the islands of Tongatapu and ‘Eua. These properties were identified by the Government’s National Disability scheme as housing extremely vulnerable people and their carers.
Further food parcels will be distributed today by the Adventist Church to families known by the pastors—families who are doing it tough as a result of the cyclone, or who have elderly or disabled family members not registered with the Government.
The Adventist Church has responded to the Tongan Government’s messages of resilience by identifying the development of 22 church-based community gardens.
Each of the 22 Adventist churches will donate 3ha of land for use by community members (Adventist and non-Adventist) whose land has been affected, or who have fallen on bad times because of the cyclone. It means that they will be able to quickly start planting root crops to be ready in the next three to six months when it is predicted there will be a food shortage as a result of the cyclone.
Adventist schools in Tonga recommenced classes yesterday but they have all lost roofs.
Tropical Cyclone Gita hit Tonga last Monday night, having already caused widespread flooding and blackouts in Samoa.
It is the strongest recorded storm to have struck Tonga, with winds of around 200km/h. About 79 per cent of the population has been affected. One elderly person died, reportedly from shock, and 33 people were seriously injured.
Power has now been restored to the majority of essential services in the capital, Nuku’alofa. However most homes still have no power. Health officials are working to minimise the risk of an outbreak of disease, particularly dengue fever.
The initial recovery costs are estimated at $A23.2 million.
Seventh-day Adventist churches, schools and houses were all extensively damaged, in particular Beulah College, where nine bathrooms have major damage, the staff room has had its roof blown off, there is major damage to the boys’ dormitory, and roof damage to the dining hall and college hall. Four staff houses need to be rebuilt and a further three have roof damage.
At Beulah Primary, the school hall was destroyed and at Hilliard Memorial school three classrooms have major damage and one staff house has roof damage.
Tonga Mission president Pastor Saia Vea said the clean-up is progressing well. “Members are helping at their own villages with cleaning up,” he said.
ADRA South Pacific director Greg Young praised the Adventist response effort. “The global Adventist Church is actively pushing Total Member Involvement, and ADRA has been able to embrace that strategy this week as we partnered with the Tongan Adventist Mission team and church communities to help those in need. It was a blessing for all concerned.”
ADRA New Zealand has opened a Cyclone Gita relief appeal.